The Islamic life during the medieval period was characterized by historical and cultural events explaining the role of various individuals in the families.
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Islam refers to giving up and surrendering to God, it is a religion based on individual relationship with God (Allah) and is guarded by Sharia Law which is a comprehensive system covering relationship between human being and their creator or with other people in a society and a nation at large (Lindsay, 2005).
It is divided into two categories namely: Devotional Law dealing with issues that bring individuals close to God (Allah) while Transactional Law regulates human activities in world in regard to the relationships between individual in the society (Lindsay, 2005).
Thesis statement, “life in the Medieval Islamic world is characterized by several traditions that determine the role of an individual in the Islamic society”.
Medieval period is the time when the world noted heightened interest in arts and history which were passed through to the middle age (Cook, 2003).
The period noted the emergence of the Sufi tradition during the 4th century AD, which reflects the inner mystical practice emphasizes on specific spiritual guidelines to ensure closer relations between men and God and recognizes Mohammad as the chief prophet (Lindsay, 2005).
Sufis believe in God responsible for all creation in the world with most important rituals being zikr in which members appreciate God through mediation, chants and movement as a way of communicating their problems (Cook, 2003).
Similarities between Sharia Law and Sufism
Both Sharia and Sufism recognize Mohammad as a prophet of God through whom all forms of communication to Allah are channeled according to the teachings derived from Holly Quran (Lindsay, 2005). Secondly, both traditions belief in one God the creator of man and the universe hence paying allegiance through fasting, praying and assisting the needy (Cook, 2003).
Similarly, in both cases, the wrath of God is felt for failure to abide by the rules in the Holly Quran which are the fabric holding the community together, failure to participate in activities directed by the traditions leads to punishment from God (Cook, 2003).
However, the two traditions conflicts on areas such as: the Sharia Law relies on two categories that deals with different situations in life as it involves, Transactional Law or Devotional Law regulating the relationship between man and God and with fellow humans in the society while Sufi relies on a single law that regulates the relationship between man and God(Lindsay, 2005).
In addition ,Sharia law is expressed through five necessities regulating, reason, property ownership and honor each of which is protected by legislative reference while Sufi relies majorly on strong self conviction with God(Cook, 2003).
Sunni and Shi i tradition
Sunni tradition developed during the last quarter of the 4th century, it refers to statements, series of action or tactics that are approved as a reflection for peace and draws its origin from the prophetic era of the Islamic faith giving explanations to ambiguous clauses in the Islamic law (Cook, 2003).
It explains the issues not tackled in the Quran for example, the potion of a grandmother’s share on inheritance stating “the Prophet of peace ruled the grandmother to acquire one sixth of the estate as inheritance “a statement not included in the Sharia Law (Lindsay, 2005).
Sunni is a subsidiary for Quran and gives specific explanations into the relationship between man and his creator and with the society at large.
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In addition, the 5th century AD witnessed the development of Shi i tradition that accepted “Ali ibn Abi-Talib”, Mohammad’s son-in-law as the Prophet’s legitimate successor similarly, its believers believed in twelve lines of inheritance after the Prophet (Cook, 2003).The two traditions are similar in that both recognizes one superhuman creator, God (Allah).
Roles and status of men and women in the family and society
The emergence of the various traditions during the medieval period introduced complete change in the Islamic life in regard to Islamic laws. The laws and penal codes give men the highest status in the society and consider women as subordinate in societal affairs.
According to the Islamic traditions, despite the teachings on equality of sexes before God, women enjoy lower status than men with fewer rights and responsibilities, for example, men are mandated to owning all the family financial and economic resources while women are required to consult their husbands or male guardians on administering these assets (Lindsay, 2005).
Similarly, women have no powers to choose their own place of residence and the husband while men have both moral and religious duty to punish their wives for disobedience (Cook, 2003).
Moreover, men enjoy the first priority on inheritance ,for example, a son inherits property equivalent to that of two daughters (Cook, 2003).
The roles and status of the dhimmi populations in the Islamic world
During the 6th century AD, Islam was entrenched in the desert of Saudi Arabia when the prophet turned against the Jews at the oasis of Khaybar leading to the death of many Jews and Christians of Saudi Arabia who were force to submit to Muslim laws hence become dhimmi population in Saudi Arabia (Lindsay, 2005).
Dhimmi population are people of non-Muslim origin who accepts to be governed by Sharia Laws and enjoy the right of residence in exchange for taxes levied on them (Lindsay, 2005).
Under sharia law, the status was initially accorded to Jews, Christians and Sabians living in Islamic nations but latter extended to Hindus and Serbians, they are entitled to fewer legal right than indigenous Muslims in these areas (Cook, 2003).
They are granted rights such as consumption of pork and alcohol that is illegal to Muslims and are also allowed to get “blood money” the amount paid for the death caused by another in countries such as Saudi Arabia (Lindsay, 2005).
In conclusion, the developments which occurred during the medieval period improved the Islamic and religion by emphasizing on Sharia Law which gives high status to men in all activities in the society the religion has developed over along period of time resulting to strong system of laws able to withstand legal changes in the world (Lindsay, 2005). The laws control every aspect of life resulting unity of all citizens in different parts of the world.
Cook, M. (2003).Forbidding wrong in Islam: An introduction. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Lindsay, J. (2005). Daily life in the medieval Islamic world. New York: Oxford University Press.