M. Cherif Bassiouni
Professor of Law, DePaul University, since 1964; 1970 Fulbright-Hays Professor of International Criminal Law, The University of Freiburg, Germany; 1971 Visiting Professor of Law, N.Y.U.; 1972 Guest Scholar Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, Washington, D.C. He is non-resident Dean of The International Institute of Higher Studies in Criminal Sciences (Siracusa, Italy) since 1976.
Muslims, irrespective of whether they come from the Arab world, Africa, Asia Minor, Central Asia, China, the Soviet Union or Western societies, still feel strongly united in their shared beliefs and values. Muslims believe that they have a contribution to make in this world, either as individuals or as a community, and that their behavior and demeanor can set an example to others. In Muslim countries the problems, dilemmas, and frustrations are numerous.
Because Islam originated and has developed in an Arab culture, other cultures which have adopted Islam have tended to be influenced by Arab customs. Thus Arab Muslim societies and other Muslims have cultural affinities, though every society has preserved its distinguishing characteristics. Islamic culture inherited an Arab culture born in the desert, simple but by no means simplistic. It has an oral tradition based on the transmission of culture through poetry and narrative. However, it has been the written record that has had the greatest impact on civilization.
The Sharia contains prescriptions, proscriptions, recommendations, suggestions, general principles, and guidelines that may be considered the basis for an overall economic theory. It is important to remember, however, that such a theory must be part of the holistic vision of Islam and the integration of all aspects of human endeavor and interaction.
An important Hadith (saying) of the Prophet is that religion is not what one formally or ritualistically practices but how one deals with others. It is therefore not sufficient to be pious without performing deeds which demonstrate one's beliefs. It is reported that the Prophet once entered a mosque and saw at prayer a venerable old man with a long white beard. He was told that the man was in the mosque all day long, worshipping and dispensing the words of Allah to others.
Islamic jurisprudence has developed over fourteen centuries. Over that span of time, various schools of jurisprudence have emerged, each with its own interpretation and application of the Sharia. Many schools splintered farther, creating schools following different interpretive approaches and applications.
The Qur'an is the principal source of Islamic law, the Sharia. It contains the rules by which the Muslim world is governed (or should govern itself) and forms the basis for relations between man and God, between individuals, whether Muslim or non-Muslim, as well as between man and things which are part of creation. The Sharia contains the rules by which a Muslim society is organized and governed, and it provides the means to resolve conflicts among individuals and between the individual and the state.
The Creator has periodically chosen human beings to reveal His messages to humankind. Indeed, the Qur'an refers to many Prophets such as Abraham, Noah, David, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and Jesus. These messages and revelations culminated in Islam and in Muhammed as the last Prophet. The historical evolution and incorporation of prior messages into Islam are clearly stated in the Qur'an. Thus Islam is not a new religion. The Qur'an refers to Islam as the religion of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.
It is estimated that there are over 900 million Muslims today. Many live in the Arab World (estimated at 120 million), but many more live in countries such as Iran, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia, China, the USSR, Nigeria, Cameroon, Chad, and Sudan. An estimated 3 million Muslims reside in the United States.
The author gratefully acknowledges the support of the MidAmerica Arab Chamber of Commerce in connection with the cost of preparing the manuscript for publication, which was approved by its Board of Directors, and expresses his deep appreciation to Rand McNally Corporation of Chicago for publishing this book as a sign of their interest in the world of Islam.
Most of the illustrations contained in this book have been graciously provided by Aramco World Magazine and Rand McNally whose assistance in this respect was most useful.