Critical Analysis #3: Islam Across Cultures

Critical Analysis #3: Islam across Cultures
In order to promulgate to the diverse peoples of the world a faith with an ethnic blueprint –uprooted right from the deserts of Saudi Arabia–, evidently many adjustments had to be made. While Muslim communities outside of Arabia incorporate elements which at a glance, may contradict certain basic notions of Islam, on a pragmatic basis, it would be virtually impossible to impart understanding about religious concepts initially alien to a people without marrying them with local and familiar elements. As professor Foltz has pointed out time and again in class lectures, in order for people to start from a platform of understanding, the involved parties must invariably begin from a set of shared assumptions. Of course this may entail a dispute over what “true Islam” means. (Denny, 299) Ahmad Sam’ani’s “Refreshment of Spirits” will be used as reference to navigate through two different Muslim cultures: the Chinese, elaborated by Wang Daiyu’s “Real Commentary on the True Teaching”, and the Javanese, as shown in the Javanese rendition of “The Gift Addressed to the Spirit of the Prophet” by an unnamed court poet (originally composed by Muhammad ibn Fadl Allah). The latter two works will also be compared to each other in order to understand certain narratives employed to disseminate the Islamic religious teachings through other traditions.
Though discrepancies are inevitable, there are many congruities between Sam’ani’s and Daiyu’s commentaries in both content and approach. Both use contrasts to illustrate God’s greatness through his forgiving nature, albeit to different degrees. Two contrasting worlds, states, circumstances are painted as extremes to demonstrate an argument; this dichotomy helps enhance the portrait of God’s involvement. Sam’ani stresses emphatically on the gentleness of God where his fearful omnipotence is mitigated by his bountiful mercy; only understood by subjecting the believer to some suffering. This often...