Describe how Muhammad founded a new religious-political community in Islam.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Muhammad was quite conscious of the new religious and political community he founded in Islam.  To a great extent, the surrounding conditions and the setting out of which he articulated the tenets of Islam were significant.  In Pre- Islamic Arabia, Muhammad recognized the challenges present.  He understood that the Arabs of the region were not unified.  Many of the tribes were nomadic, lacking a centralized focus.  Those that were settled focused on generating economic profit in a region where agriculture was difficult.  Given the lack of centrality, different tribes waged battle against others.  Blood feuds and vendettas were part of the world that Muhammad saw as the formation of a religious- political community was seen as fundamentally impossible during the time.  Nomadic tribes waging war for conquest of another was not unusual.  For Muhammad, the need to develop a new religious and political community and culture emerged from these elements.  A lack of spiritual identity was enveloping the region, as materialism and conquest for goods became dominant.  Additionally, there was little in way of centralized focus.  Countering tribalism in the form of a shared collective notion of community became part of the Muhammad's motivation.

With this in mind, it becomes clear as to why Muhammad's message was steeped in the political reality.  Muhammad's community was geared towards spiritual transcendence as well as a reality that was steeped in fragmented contingency.  The monotheism of his message helped to enhance a religious and political community that was centralized and singular in its focus.  Islam was a force that could bring about unity to those in the region who previously failed to accept anything like it.  Muhammad understood the political dimensions and social implications of his message.  Muhammad envisioned Mecca to be more than it was, a religious and political community where antagonisms and materialism would be replaced with strict adherence to a universal figure that unified and bound all. This same desire for religious and political community was evident in Muhammad's move to Yathrib/ Medina.  Civil war had become the norm and Muhammad was sought to bring about unity to the area.   It is here in which the first seeds of community formation and a vision of religious and political unity could be seen. Muhammad understood the need for such a vision given the world that surrounded him.

To a great extent, Muhammad's insistence on a strictly central vision of the divine arises from the world that he sees which lacks it.  The commands given in the Qur'an in terms of the Hadith represented the means by which Muhammad was able to ensure that a new religious and political community could take hold. Muhammad's primary motivation becomes clear in his embrace of embracing military conflict to accomplish his goal of spiritual and social unity. The new religious and political community rooted in Islam was only possible through what Muhammad saw around him and the vision to transform it.

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