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Islamic mythology

Islamic mythology

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Islamic mythology is the body of traditional narratives associated with Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 from a mythographical perspective. Many Muslims believe that these narratives are historical and sacred and contain profound truths. These traditional narratives include, but are not limited to, the stories contained in the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

.

Followers of Islam (Muslims) believe that Islam, in its current form, was established by God
God in Islam
In Islamic theology, God is the all-powerful and all-knowing creator, sustainer, ordainer, and judge of the universe. Islam puts a heavy emphasis on the conceptualization of God as strictly singular . God is unique and inherently One , all-merciful and omnipotent. According to the Islamic...

, through the prophet Muhammed, who lived in the 6th and 7th centuries C.E. The sacred book of Islam is the Qur'an. Muslims believe that all true prophets (including Moses
Moses
Moses was, according to the Hebrew Bible and Qur'an, a religious leader, lawgiver and prophet, to whom the authorship of the Torah is traditionally attributed...

 and Jesus
Jesus
Jesus of Nazareth , commonly referred to as Jesus Christ or simply as Jesus or Christ, is the central figure of Christianity...

) preached Islamic principles that were applicable in their time but when the times changed and people needed new guidance for new situations, God appointed a new prophet with a new code of life that could guide them. Muhammad is the most recent prophet, who restored and completed the principles of Islam.

Issues surrounding the term "mythology"


In its broadest academic sense, the word simply means a traditional story. However, many scholars restrict the term "myth" to sacred stories. Folklorists often go further, defining myths as "tales believed as true, usually sacred, set in the distant past or other worlds or parts of the world, and with extra-human, inhuman, or heroic characters".

If "myth", defined by folklorists, are stories both sacred and "believed as true", then the most clear-cut examples of Islamic mythology come from Islamic scripture. However, note that the term "mythology" does not encompass all scriptures. Because a myth is a traditional story, non-narrative scriptures (e.g., proverbs, theological writings) are not themselves "myths".

Note also that the term "myth" may not encompass all stories in Islamic scripture, depending on how strictly one defines the word "myth". One's use of the word "myth" is largely a matter of one's academic discipline. For scholars in religious studies, myths are stories whose main characters are gods or demigods: this definition would actually exclude sacred stories that don't feature God as the centre of attention. Some folklorists restrict the word "myth" to stories that describe the creation of the world and of natural phenomena. By this definition, the Judeo-Christian-Islamic creation story would form a part of Islamic mythology, while the Islamic story of Marium (Mary) giving birth to Isa (Jesus) would not.

In the culture of the ancient Mediterranean world in the context of which early Islam and its legend arose, there often did not exist the separation that exists for many societies in the modern period between fields of history and mythology, or the attempt to discern between objective
Objectivity (philosophy)
Objectivity is a central philosophical concept which has been variously defined by sources. A proposition is generally considered to be objectively true when its truth conditions are met and are "mind-independent"—that is, not met by the judgment of a conscious entity or subject.- Objectivism...

 truth and spiritual
Spirituality
Spirituality can refer to an ultimate or an alleged immaterial reality; an inner path enabling a person to discover the essence of his/her being; or the “deepest values and meanings by which people live.” Spiritual practices, including meditation, prayer and contemplation, are intended to develop...

 truths.

Subcategories


The mythology of Islam can be grouped into academic categories:
  • Cosmogonic myths are myths that describe the creation of the world. The Judeo-Christo-Islamic six-part creation account is a cosmogonic myth.
  • Creation myths (also called etiological
    Etiology
    Etiology is the study of causation, or origination. The word is derived from the Greek , aitiologia, "giving a reason for" ....

     myths) explain the origins of natural phenomena and human institutions. While cosmogonic myths describe how the universe itself was created, creation myths build on cosmogonic myths, describing the creation of phenomena within the universe. The Qur'an's isolated creation story of God creating iron is an example of a creation myth.
  • Legends
    Legends
    Legends are historical narratives, symbolic representations of folk belief.Legends may also refer to:-Music:*Legend , a 1984 album*Legends , a 1998 album...

     are stories that take place recently (relative to the mythological age of origins) and generally focus on human characters rather than divine ones; some scholars (for instance, professional folklorists) strictly distinguish them from "true" myths. The story of Abraham almost sacrificing Ishmael is an example of legend.
  • Eschatological myths describe the afterlife and the end of the world. The Islamic story of Qiyamat is an example of eschatological mythology: it describes the Day of Judgment, when God will reward the good and punish the evil.

Life of Muhammad


Muhammad
Muhammad
Muhammad |ligature]] at U+FDF4 ;Arabic pronunciation varies regionally; the first vowel ranges from ~~; the second and the last vowel: ~~~. There are dialects which have no stress. In Egypt, it is pronounced not in religious contexts...

 was born into late 6th-century Arabia. At that time, the inhabitants practised a polytheistic religion and lived in tribal groups that frequently feuded. Although married, Muhammad retreated into a cave in Mount Hira, in search of enlightenment. While in the cave, he experienced a revelation and received the words of the Qur'an (dictated to him by the angel Gabriel
Gabriel
In Abrahamic religions, Gabriel is an Archangel who typically serves as a messenger to humans from God.He first appears in the Book of Daniel, delivering explanations of Daniel's visions. In the Gospel of Luke Gabriel foretells the births of both John the Baptist and of Jesus...

). He returned to Mecca
Mecca
Mecca is a city in the Hijaz and the capital of Makkah province in Saudi Arabia. The city is located inland from Jeddah in a narrow valley at a height of above sea level...

, a cultural centre of Arabia, to spread his message.

Threatened by the possibility of a religious revolution, the Meccan leaders persecuted Muhammad and his followers who eventually migrated to Medina
Medina
Medina , or ; also transliterated as Madinah, or madinat al-nabi "the city of the prophet") is a city in the Hejaz region of western Saudi Arabia, and serves as the capital of the Al Madinah Province. It is the second holiest city in Islam, and the burial place of the Islamic Prophet Muhammad, and...

, from which they continued to feud with the Meccans. Eventually Muhammad conquered Mecca, converting its religious centre, the Kaaba
Kaaba
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

 stone, into the new centre of Islamic spirituality. By the time he died, he had brought nearly all of Arabia into the religion of Islam.

By some academic definitions, a traditional story about a historical human character like Muhammad would be a "legend", not a "myth".

The Ka'bah


According to Islamic tradition, God told Adam to construct a building to be the earthly counterpart of the House of Heaven. This was the giant black stone cube that Muslims call the Kaaba
Kaaba
The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

, the sacred mosque of Mecca. Later, Ibraham and Ishmail had to rebuild the Kaaba on the old foundations.

The Kaaba was originally intended as a symbolic house for the one monotheistic God. However, after Ibraham's death, people started to fill the Kaaba with pagan idols. When Muhammad conquered Mecca, he cleaned out the idols from the Kaaba. It now stands as an important pilgrimage site, which all Muslims are supposed to visit at least once if they are able. Muslims are supposed to pray five times a day while facing in the Kaaba's direction.

Connection with Jewish and Christian mythologies



Biblical stories in the Qur'an



Like Judaism and Christianity, Islam is a monotheistic religion. It has much in common with the stories and teachings of Judaism and Christianity, but Muslims believe that Muhammad was the final and ultimate prophet in the Judeo-Christo-Islamic revelation. They also believe that the religious texts of the Jews and Christians have been corrupted by the hands of man over the passage of time. Islam incorporates many Biblical events and heroes into its own mythology. Stories about Musa (Moses) and Ibrahim (Abraham) form parts of Islam's scriptures. The Qur'an retells in detail the Jewish tale of Joseph, who was sold to an Egyptian, and the Christian tale of Mary, the mother of Jesus. In both cases, it adds original details and an Islamic interpretation: for instance, in the Islamic version, Jesus speaks while he is still an infant, and he is merely a miraculously-conceived human prophet, not the incarnation of God.

Linear time


Unlike many other religions, whose sense of time was basically cyclic, Judaism and Christianity worked to preserve a written linear history and mythic timeline, running from the creation to the end of the world. For example, in Aztec mythology
Aztec mythology
The aztec civilization recognized a polytheistic mythology, which contained the many deities and supernatural creatures from their religious beliefs. "orlando"- History :...

 the universe is created and destroyed repeatedly, but in Judaism and Christianity, the universe has been created only once and will be destroyed only once, and after its destruction it will be restored to perfection once and for all. Likewise, Islamic mythology has a linear time perspective, running from the creation to the end of the world and the establishment of paradise on heaven. Qur'an 56 describes the end times, the judgment of the dead, and the eternal reward and punishment of saints and sinners—an eschatological
Eschatology
Eschatology is a part of theology, philosophy, and futurology concerned with what are believed to be the final events in history, or the ultimate destiny of humanity, commonly referred to as the end of the world or the World to Come...

 mythology
similar to the storyline of the Christian Book of Revelation
Book of Revelation
The Book of Revelation is the final book of the New Testament. The title came into usage from the first word of the book in Koine Greek: apokalupsis, meaning "unveiling" or "revelation"...

 and to some elements in the Jewish Book of Isaiah
Book of Isaiah
The Book of Isaiah is the first of the Latter Prophets in the Hebrew Bible, preceding the books of Ezekiel, Jeremiah and the Book of the Twelve...

 and Book of Daniel
Book of Daniel
The Book of Daniel is a book in the Hebrew Bible. The book tells of how Daniel, and his Judean companions, were inducted into Babylon during Jewish exile, and how their positions elevated in the court of Nebuchadnezzar. The court tales span events that occur during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar,...

.

Islamic creation belief


Islam shares with Judaism and Christianity the story of a world-creating divine act, spaced out over six periods. The Islamic creation account, like the Hebrew one, involves Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve
Adam and Eve were, according to the Genesis creation narratives, the first human couple to inhabit Earth, created by YHWH, the God of the ancient Hebrews...

 as the first parents, living in paradise. As in the Hebrew story, God warns Adam and Eve not to eat fruit from a certain tree, but they do anyway, earning expulsion from Paradise
Paradise
Paradise is a place in which existence is positive, harmonious and timeless. It is conceptually a counter-image of the miseries of human civilization, and in paradise there is only peace, prosperity, and happiness. Paradise is a place of contentment, but it is not necessarily a land of luxury and...

.

The creation narrative of Islam
Islam
Islam . The most common are and .   : Arabic pronunciation varies regionally. The first vowel ranges from ~~. The second vowel ranges from ~~~...

 is further developed in many verses in the Qur'an. According to the Qur'an, the skies and the earth were joined together as one "unit of creation", after which they were "cloved asunder". After the parting of both, they simultaneously came into their present shape after going through a phase when they were smoke-like.

Some parts of the Qur'an state that the process of creation took 6 days. While other parts claim that the process took 8 days: 2 days to create the Earth, 4 days to create the mountains, to bless the Earth and to measure its sustenance, and then 2 more days to create the heavens and the stars.

However, the consensus among Muslim scholars is that the process of creation took 6 days, not 8; They claim that the 4 days for creating the mountains, blessing the Earth and measuring its sustenance implicitly include the 2 days for creating the Earth. In light of modern scientific knowledge about the origins of the earth and the universe, many modern interpretations particularly by apologists, prefer to view the word "day" (Arabic: يوم) as used in the Qur'an to mean an arbitrary period of time or epoch; They justify this view by explaining that the usage of the word "day" to mean an arbitrary period of time is not uncommon.

The Qur'an states that God created the world and the cosmos, made all the creatures that walk, swim, crawl, and fly on the face of the earth from water. He made the angels, and the sun, moon and the stars to dwell in the universe. He poured down the rain in torrents, and broke up the soil to bring forth the corn, the grapes and other vegetation; the olive and the palm, the fruit trees and the grass.

God molded clay, earth, sand and water into a model of a man. He breathed life and power into it, and it immediately sprang to life. And this first man was called Adam. God took Adam to live in Paradise. God taught Adam the names of all the creatures, and then commanded all the angels to bow down before Adam. All of them bowed but Iblis (Lucifer) refused to obey.

God placed the couple in a beautiful garden in Paradise, telling them that they could eat whatever they wanted except the fruit of a forbidden tree. But Iblis (the Serpent
Serpent (Bible)
Serpent is the term used to translate a variety of words in the Hebrew bible, the most common being , , the generic word for "snake"....

) tempted them to disobey God, and eat the fruit. When God knew that Adam and Eve had disobeyed him, he cast them out of Paradise and sent them to the earth.

Islam breaks somewhat with Judaism and Christianity in explaining why Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit. In the actual Hebrew account in Genesis, a snake tempts them to eat the fruit. Extra-biblical Christian mythology
Christian mythology
Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. In the study of mythology, the term "myth" refers to a traditional story, often one which is regarded as sacred and which explains how the world and its inhabitants came to have their present form.Classicist G.S. Kirk defines a...

 identifies the snake with Satan
Satan
Satan , "the opposer", is the title of various entities, both human and divine, who challenge the faith of humans in the Hebrew Bible...

, but the actual text of the Biblical story does not explicitly make this identification. In contrast, the Quran states explicitly that Shaitan (Satan) tempted Adam and Eve to eat the fruit. In contrast with Judeo-Christian traditions, which sees Satan as a rebelling angel, Islamic tradition identifies Shaitan with a being called Iblis, who is a jinni
Genie
Jinn or genies are supernatural creatures in Arab folklore and Islamic teachings that occupy a parallel world to that of mankind. Together, jinn, humans and angels make up the three sentient creations of Allah. Religious sources say barely anything about them; however, the Qur'an mentions that...

, a spirit of fire. In Islamic tradition, angels consist of light and never disobey God since they do not have free will. Thus, it is said that angels are incapable of sin. In contrast, God created jinn with free will and they may choose to obey Him or not, similar to the case of the human being. He told them to bow before Adam, but Iblis refused, claiming that his fiery nature was superior to Adam's flesh, which consisted of clay. God cast Iblis out of his paradise, and Iblis vowed to tempt Adam and Eve's generations to corruption and to disobey God.

Isaac and Ishmael



Like Jewish Hebrews, Muslim Arabs trace their ancestry back to Abraham. Like Jews, Muslims believe that Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. While Jews see Isaac as the Hebrews' progenitor, the Muslims trace the Arabs back to Ishmael. However, although agreeing with Jews in terms of ancestry, Muslims shift the emphasis from Isaac to Ishmael. According to Muslim tradition, Ishmael helped Abraham build the Kaaba, and Ishmael's descendants (the Arabs) became the Kaaba's guardians. In addition, while the Bible describes Abraham offering his only son, Isaac, as a sacrifice to God (before God stops him), the Qur'an describes the same story, but with Ishmael as the nearly-sacrificed son.

Beings, places and events


The following are unique to Islam:
  • Muhammad - the prophet of Islam.
  • Jinn - creatures of fire; along with angels and humans, one of the three intelligent species created by God
  • Kaaba
    Kaaba
    The Kaaba is a cuboid-shaped building in Mecca, Saudi Arabia, and is the most sacred site in Islam. The Qur'an states that the Kaaba was constructed by Abraham, or Ibraheem, in Arabic, and his son Ishmael, or Ismaeel, as said in Arabic, after he had settled in Arabia. The building has a mosque...

     - the sacred mosque that Muslims visit while on the Hajj
    Hajj
    The Hajj is the pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. It is one of the largest pilgrimages in the world, and is the fifth pillar of Islam, a religious duty that must be carried out at least once in their lifetime by every able-bodied Muslim who can afford to do so...

     (pilgrimage to Mecca). In Islamic mythology, Ibrahim (Abraham) and Ishmael built the Kaaba at God's request, to serve as the earthly counterpart of Jannah
    Jannah
    Jannah , is the Islamic conception of paradise. The Arabic word Jannah is a shortened version meaning simply "Garden". According to Islamic eschatology, after death, one will reside in the grave until the appointed resurrection on . Muslims believe that the treatment of the individual in the life...

     (Heaven). Adam built the original earthly Kaaba, but Ibraham and his son had to rebuild it.


The following Islamic subjects have some elements in common with Jewish and Christian traditions:
  • Beings
    • Angels - beings of light that serve as God's messengers; in Islam, these lack free will.
    • Jibril - the archangel Gabriel and Jibril is an archangel who serves as a messenger from God.
    • Azrael
      Azrael
      Azrael is the name of the Archangel of Death in some extrabiblical traditions. He is also the angel of death in Islamic theology and Sikhism. It is an English form of the Arabic name ʿIzrāʾīl or Azra'eil , the name traditionally attributed to the angel of death in some sects of Islam and Sikhism,...

       - the angel of death.
    • Michael
      Michael
      Michael is a given name that comes from the , derived from the Hebrew question מי כמו אלוהים? meaning "Who is like God?" In English, it is sometimes shortened to Mike, Mikey, or, especially in Ireland, Mick...

       - the angel of nature.
    • Israfel
      Israfel
      Israfel or Israfil , is the angel of the trumpet in Islam, though unnamed in the Qur'an. Along with Mikhail, Djibril and Izra'il, he is one of the four Islamic archangels.-In religious tradition:...

       - The angel of doom trumpet
  • Places
    • Garden of Eden
      Garden of Eden
      The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

       - the heavenly Paradise where Adam and Eve lived before their Fall.
    • Barzakh
      Barzakh
      In Islamic eschatology, Barzakh is the intermediate state in which the soul of the deceased is transferred across the boundaries of the mortal realm into a kind of "cold sleep" where the soul will rest until the Qiyamah . The term appears in the Qur'an Surah 23, Ayat 100.Barzakh is a sequence that...

       - the state of the souls of the deceased before the Day of Judgment, when they will be assigned to Heaven or to Hell.
    • Jannah
      Jannah
      Jannah , is the Islamic conception of paradise. The Arabic word Jannah is a shortened version meaning simply "Garden". According to Islamic eschatology, after death, one will reside in the grave until the appointed resurrection on . Muslims believe that the treatment of the individual in the life...

       - Heaven; the abode of the righteous after the Day of Judgment; contains the Garden of Paradise.
    • Jahannam
      Jahannam
      Jahannam is the Arabic language equivalent to Hell. The term comes from the Greek Gehenna, itself derived from the Hebrew geographical name for the Valley of Hinnom.-Jahannam in the Qur'an:...

       - Hell; the abode of the wicked after the Day of Judgment.
  • Events
    • Creation - a six-stages creative act by God.
    • Fall of man - the loss of Paradise that resulted from eating the forbidden fruit; like Judaism, and unlike Christianity, Islam does not hold that the Fall made man inherently sinful.
    • Deluge and Noah's (Nuh's) Ark
      Noah's Ark
      Noah's Ark is a vessel appearing in the Book of Genesis and the Quran . These narratives describe the construction of the ark by Noah at God's command to save himself, his family, and the world's animals from the worldwide deluge of the Great Flood.In the narrative of the ark, God sees the...

      - worldwide flood event with water vessel containing remains of humanity and set of all animals.
    • Qiyamat - the Day of Resurrection (and the reward and punishment of the good and the wicked); a fundamental element of Islamic eschatology that incorporates much from the Jewish and Christian traditions.

See also

  • Al-Farabi
    Al-Farabi
    ' known in the West as Alpharabius , was a scientist and philosopher of the Islamic world...

  • Christian mythology
    Christian mythology
    Christian mythology is the body of myths associated with Christianity. In the study of mythology, the term "myth" refers to a traditional story, often one which is regarded as sacred and which explains how the world and its inhabitants came to have their present form.Classicist G.S. Kirk defines a...

  • Folk religion
    Folk religion
    Folk religion consists of ethnic or regional religious customs under the umbrella of an organized religion, but outside of official doctrine and practices...

  • Jewish mythology
    Jewish mythology
    Jewish mythology is generally the sacred and traditional narratives that help explain and symbolize the Jewish religion, whereas Jewish folklore consists of the folk tales and legends that existed in the general Jewish culture. There is very little early folklore distinct from the aggadah literature...

  • Religion and mythology
    Religion and mythology
    Religion and mythology differ, but have overlapping aspects. Both terms refer to systems of concepts that are of high importance to a certain community, making statements concerning the supernatural or sacred. Generally, mythology is considered one component or aspect of religion...


Sources

  • Huston Smith
    Huston Smith
    Huston Cummings Smith is a religious studies scholar in the United States. His book The World's Religions remains a popular introduction to comparative religion.-Education:...

    . The Religions of Man. NY: Harper & Row (Perennial Library), 1965.
  • Robert A. Segal. Myth: A Very Short Introduction. NY: Oxford UP, 2004.
  • Zong In-Sob. Folk Tales From Korea, Third Edition. Elizabeth: Hollym International, 1982.
  • Mircea Eliade. Myth and Reality. Trans. Willard R. Trask. NY: Harper & Row (Harper Torchbooks), 1968.
  • The Holy Qur'an. Electronic Text Center, University of Virginia Library. Available online.