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Islamic Social Practices

             Having spent most of the term concentrating on the history and theology of Islam, reading Chapter 14 and 15 in Denny's Introduction to Islam was a nice change of pace. Both chapters provide a comprehensive summary of Islam as it is carried out by Muslims in their every day lives; the topics span many different areas such as birthing, education, food and eating habits, inheritance, and the function of the Mosque. It was very interesting to learn how a religion that formed so long ago maintains practical applications for Muslims in the 21st century. Although some of the practices and principles might seem foreign to those of us used to a more secular and liberal lifestyle, many also made a lot of sense as well. For the purposes of this paper, I will focus on the three areas that I found most interesting: marriage, death rituals and recreation.
             Islam, unlike other religions is a strong advocate of marriage. There is no place for celibacy such as in the Roman Catholic context of priests and nuns. Marriage is seen as a religious duty, moral safeguard and social necessity. Muslims are encouraged to marry as early in their lives as possible. Denny writes, "The urge to obey God by marrying gives young adults a sense of seriousness and industry and serves to deflect them from drifting to and fro in late-adolescent sexual confusion." Similar to the Christian practice of having a father give away the bride, Islam also dictates such a role called a wali, or guardian, who gives away the bride by signing a marriage contract. Unlike our Western notions of romantic love and courting before marriage, Muslims view the union between a man and a woman as more of a family matter. In most cases, marriages are arranged. Wealth and status are important factors considered by both families of the bride and groom and although preferences may be indicated by both as to whom they would like to marry, ultimately marriage partners must be approved.

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