Buraq in Islam: In sura 17:1 of the Qur_an, the prophet Muhammad, led by the angel Gabriel, journeys in one night (israq_) to “the Far Distant Place of Worship,” interpreted as Jerusalem. In the hadith, Muhammad continues on to the heavens (mi_raj), describing his mount as a small white steed, called al-Buraq. Later literary and art-historical traditions give al-Buraq a human face, wings, and dappled coloration. This miraculous steed is depicted in the fourteenth-century world history of Rashiduddin, the fifteenth-century Timurid Mi_rajname, and sixteenth-century Safavid Khamsas of Nizami. Buraq’s importance continues today, appearing in Sunni paintings commemorating a hajj to Mecca, or in Shi_ite popular art, which often shows al-Buraq alongside Husayn’s horse at Karbala.
Circumcision in Islam
The role of circumcision (khitan) in Islamic society has shifted dramatically due to issues of gender, custom, and law. Nowhere mentioned in the Qur_an, circumcision was a common practice in Arabia that was incorporated into the Islamic legal system to varying degrees and for a variety of reasons. Both Josephus and Philo of Alexandria note its presence in Egypt, Ethiopia, and Arabia prior to the coming of Islam. Philo observes that Egyptian males and females were circumcised after the fourteenth year before marriage, while Josephus claims the Arabs performed it just after the thirteenth year, at the time Ishmael was circumcised.
Legally, Islamic scholars debate whether the practice is obligatory or sunna (customary), or whether its obligations be extended solely to males, or to males and females. Al Shafi_a considers the practice an equal duty for both sexes, while Malik and others consider it sunna for males. The disagreement over gender requirements continues in current cultural practice. Female circumcision is embraced in southern Egypt, Ethiopia, Somalia, the Sudan, and West Africa, and a minor form is practiced by Southeast Asian Shafi_is in Indonesia and Malaysia. It is condemned by many Muslims and non-Muslims who reside outside of these areas, mostly for humanitarian and health reasons. Many legal schools also deliberate the time a circumcision should be performed. Some recommend the seventh day following the birth of a male child, while others propose its performance after a child reaches his tenth birthday. Again, such legal variation is mirrored in contemporary practice. In the Middle East, circumcision occurs between the ages of two and seven, while in Europe and North Africa male Muslims are circumcised in hospitals immediately after birth. Suffice it to say that today there is no standard orthodox practice when it comes to circumcision.
Not all Muslims practice circumcision (specifically, those in China), and many who do adhere to vastly different cultural norms. The justifications for circumcision also vary dramatically in Islamic sources and practice. Many hadith link circumcision with purification (tahara). It often appears in lists that include other acts of general hygiene, including the clipping of nails, the use of the tooth-stick, the trimming of mustaches, and the depilation of both the armpits and the pubic region. Some hadith also link the practice back to Ibrahim, who circumcised himself at the age of eighty with a pickax. Unlike Judaism, Islam does not view circumcision as the sole signifier of the covenant between God and his people. Circumcision stands as just one of many tests Ibrahim performed to demonstrate his adherence to the true faith. Many Muslims bypass these exegetical intricacies and simply take the view that Muhammad mandated the practice. The legal and customary support for circumcising just prior to the onset of puberty also suggests the practice was performed as a rite of passage, one that would ready an individual for marriage. As a rite of passage, male circumcision ceremonies in places like Java and Morocco are accompanied with purificatory rites, sacrifices, and feasts. When conducted today, female circumcision is a much less celebratory act, rarely accompanied by such festivities. To interpret circumcision in Islam from a religious studies standpoint, the manipulation of the genitalia exemplifies ultimate divine control over one’s human, procreative instincts. Thus one cut symbolizes a total submission to God.
In early Islam ijtihad (definition, meaning and explanation of Ijtihad), along with terms such as al-ra_y, qiyas, and zann referred to sound and balanced personal reasoning. By the third century of Islam, however, prophetic traditions replaced these terms as the primary indicators of the law after the Quran. The term qiyas remained operative but was severely curtailed by jurists of all schools. Ijtihad, however, was universally embraced by all jurists and theologians, including those who, in all other matters, held strongly opposing views. This was perhaps due to ijtihad’s authority residing in a prophetic tradition, but more likely it was because the actual definition of the term varied from jurist to jurist. Al- Shafi_i, for instance, when asked, replied that ijtihad and qiyas are two names for the same process. Ibn Hazm, in contrast, denounced qiyas but not ijtihad: The former, he maintained, referred to baseless speculation, and the latter, to the individual’s attempts at unraveling the truth by textual corroboration.
All nonetheless used ijtihad to refer to no more than the search for the legal norm (hukm) in Islam’s corpus sancta without much regard for context. In contrast, postcolonial Islamic thinkers used ijtihad as shorthand for intellectual and social reform, and as a break from taqlid or blind imitation of past legal rulings. The Indian poet/ philosopher, Muhammad Iqbal, for instance, saw ijtihad as the catalyst for Islam’s intellectual resurgence, whereas the grand mufti of Egypt, Muhammad _Abduh, considered it a break from traditional scholarship, and Maududi as the key to establishing an Islamic political order. The relationship between taqlid and ijtihad during this period became less juridical and more symbolic: The former now referred to the general deterioration of everything Islamic and the latter to its reformation. In general, ijtihad served to validate the reformist’s efforts to subordinate the sacred texts to the exigencies of a modern context.
While ijtihad was warmly received, no methodology for reasoning by ijtihad was established, as was the case with qiyas, for instance. Jurists spoke of the four essential constituents of qiyas, and its various forms, but in the case of ijtihad, spoke only of the qualifications of the mujtahids who do ijtihad, and of their rankings within particular schools of law. More importantly, they spoke of the closing of the doors of ijtihad. The Crusades, the rise of regional dynasties subsequent to the collapse of the Abbasid empire, and the Mongol invasions
were seen as threats to Islamic intellectualism in general. Coupled with this, attacks by rationalists and philosophers on Muslim orthodox thinking convinced jurists that any further ijtihad posed a great danger to orthodoxy itself. The doors of ijtihad were thus closed in the fourth Islamic century, and alon g period of taqlid followed. Recent scholarship has challenged this view based on evidence that mujtahids existed well into the sixteenth century, and that several prominent premodern scholars denied the closure of the doors of ijtihad.
The Muslims are divided into two major sects, namely the Sunnis and the Shias. These two are major sects but there are some other sects in Muslims. There is another class of Muhammadan called Motazillas. It is not clear whether they form the separate sect or are an offshoot of the Shia sect.
Qadianis also follow the Sunni law and so do the Ahl-e-Hadith. Ahmadis of the Qadianis Group are concerned, it is admitted that they consider Mirza Ghulam Ahmad, the founder of the Qadiani movement. They believe in the qualified finality of the Prophet Hood of Muhammad PBUH and not upon it absolute unqualified finality. The first portion of the definition of Muslim i.e. a person, who does not believe in the absolute and unqualified finality of the Prophet Hood of Muhammad PBUH the last of the Prophets, covers the case of Qadiani Group of Ahmadis.
Sunni and Shia are further divided into many other sub sects.
Sub-sect of Sunni
The Sunnis are divided into four sub-sects namely,
- The Hanfis
- The Malikis
- The Shafis
- The Hanbalis
The Sunni Muslims of India belong principally to the Hanfi School of thought. Muslim male of female is presumed to have the faith of his or her father and can renounces the faith when he or she acquires the age of puberty. In indo-Pakistan subcontinent there is the initial presumption that a Muslim is governed by Hanfi Law, unless the contrary is established by good evidence. As most Sunni are Hanfi the presumption is that a Sunni is governed by Hanfi Law.
Sub-sects of Shia
The Shias are divided into three main sub sects;
- The Athna-Ashaias
- The Ismailyas
- The Zaidyas
The Athan-Asharias are further divided in two sects, Akhbari and Usuli
As most Shias are Athna-Asharias, the resumption is that a Shia is governed by the Atha-Asharia exposition of law. The Aga Khan is the spiritual head of the Ismaili Khojas and he was once regarded as having the sole right of determining who shall or shall not remain a member of the community, but this right has been curtailed later. The Sunnis and the Shia are spread all over world.