Islam captivates Islamic followers to follow

Peter Heine: Culture etiquette for non-Muslims. A guide for everyday life.

"As-Salam Alaykum", a Muslim gladly welcomes his fellow believer. "Alaykum as-Salam," replies the other. This greeting can also be heard again and again on the streets of Berlin, Cologne or Hamburg. One or the other German has memorized it. And just as he enters the Italian restaurant around the corner with a "Buon giorno" on his lips, he may consider it polite to greet "As-Salam Alaykum" in a mosque. A wrong conclusion, says Peter Heine, Islamic scholar at Humboldt University in Berlin.

This is actually use a greeting that only Muslims themselves. That literally means: "Peace with you". And when I reply: "Peace with you too," then a kind of contract has been made between us, so to speak. In other words, we have made it clear that, firstly, we are both Muslims and, secondly, that we will not do anything against each other. Muslims today always point out that the word salam for peace and Islam as the name of the religion belong to the same root, so that one has to do with a decidedly Islamic greeting. Even in a secular society like we are, we would not greet anyone with "Praise be to Jesus Christ". Unless we know of someone who belongs to our particular religious community, where this may be the case.

Peter Heine answers the question of the appropriate greeting in more detail in a chapter of his guide for everyday dealings with Muslims. In this book he also tells, for example, which economic transactions are restricted by the rules of the Koran. It describes the sense and purpose of certain dress codes. And he explains why Muslims value hospitality so highly or what certain gestures and specific names mean. His observations and advice were published under the title "Culture etiquette for non-Muslims".

So I chose that because I think the Freiherr von Knigge is so good. This is actually a book in which people should learn to deal with others without realizing that they actually have no idea about their way of life. And that's basically an enlightening book in its approach. And that's how I understood mine too.

In his daily dealings with Muslims in Germany and during his stays in Islamic countries, Peter Heine repeatedly noticed situations that confused both sides. He wants to clear up such misunderstandings in his book.

"With men in some regions of the Near and Middle East you can find that they put their hand on their member when greeting them. They indicate that the good relationship with what is greeted should also apply to the offspring. Also the hands are placed inside each other. However, there is no firm grip and vigorous shaking. Many Orientals find this Western practice uncomfortable and embarrassing. "

Islamic scholar Peter Heine combines his descriptions with advice. A section on Ramadan briefly describes how fasting affects Muslims in everyday life, for example that shops and state authorities are only available for a few hours. Then it says:

"If a European wants to travel to the Islamic world for business reasons, he should avoid this period. For tourists too, Ramadan means that they often stand in front of closed doors, cannot enter monuments and museums are only open to a limited extent. It is true today It is common in most Islamic countries for at least some restaurants to receive guests, but their windows are curtained and lighting is kept to a minimum to prevent the fasting from being disturbed by the sight of eaters. .. As a European in Ramadan one should adapt to the customs to a certain extent and under no circumstances eat or smoke on the street. "

In some places the book seems a little precocious, instructive. Just a etiquette. Originally intended for tourists and business travelers. But because many Muslims also maintain their traditions in Germany, it is also a guide for anyone who wants to deal more intensively with the way of life of their Turkish or Moroccan neighbors. The "Handbook Law and Culture of Islam in German Society" presents the Muslim way of life in a completely different way. If the "Culture Etiquette" captivates with its clear narratives, the handbook provides detailed factual information. In addition to Peter Heine, the Islamic scholar Adel Theodor Khoury describes the duties and habits a believer must observe. In the Ramadan chapter, for example, it says about the different levels of fasting:

"Normal fasting consists in abstaining from food and drink; ... from smoking and sexual intercourse; from sunrise to sunset. The special fast of the pious includes the practice of the following virtues: - The bridle of the eyes, because according to the Prophet Muhammad: 'The look is a poison arrow from the arrows of the devil.' - The restraint of the ear so that one turns away from evil. - Taking control of your limbs so that you avoid anything that violates the obligation to fast, such as overeating at the end of the fasting day. - At last the cultivation of the feelings of trusting desire and the humble fear of God ...

There is also a form of fast practiced by the prophets, the saints, and the especially devout. It consists in turning the heart away from the world and earthly things and directing it towards God alone. "

The manual also covers the religious dimension of fasting or the creed, the background to the funeral ceremonies or dress codes. All chapters are kept short and clear. Because the work is aimed primarily at readers who come together with Muslims professionally and who want to orient themselves quickly and reliably about the rules of life of the believers.

"So we have to see, for example, there are Muslims in the army, there are Muslims in prisons and in many other areas, where are large groups of people together that are, for example, supplied to 'ne certain kind of food and drink , and that there is simply someone who reads it, so let's say a Bundeswehr officer who has Muslims in his troops, who says, let's just take a look here to see how it is actually, because it often happens that some Muslims say this and that is Islam or these are our rules, and so we want to be treated accordingly. Then of course the book gives someone the opportunity to look up and see that this may not have anything to do with Islam, but instead whose are any regional rules that other Muslims would see quite differently. "

The authors also want to use the manual to teach Muslims about the duties and freedoms of Islamic law. That sounds a bit bold at first. After all, the authors are socialized in a Christian way. The claim only appears understandable if the basis of the reference work is observed. The explanations are based on judgments of Muslim legal scholars. Their authority gives the book its binding character. In this context, the title "Law and Culture of Islam in German Society" is a bit misleading. Because of course the decisions of the Islamic scholars - and thus also the explanations in the manual - apply to Muslims all over the world. Only the last chapter deals specifically with the situation of believers in Germany. The lawyer Janbernd Oebbecke described the status of the court rulings on questions of the Muslim way of life. Otherwise, specific German or European questions only appear marginally. Many of them have not yet been adequately resolved, admits Peter Heine.

Many problems that Muslims have here in daily life can basically only be assessed by legal experts who do not even know the German context, who have never been here or who only visit briefly, but who always assume a situation as it is at home in Egypt, Morocco, Indonesia. And there will always be a difference and no doubt it will remain a problem for Muslims to deal with for a very long time.

It is the current situation of believers that the "Culture etiquette for non-Muslims" and the "Handbook of Law and Culture of Islam in German Society" emphasize. The authors only consider the origins of this religion in brief introductions. For example, anyone who would like to learn a little more about the history of their founder, Mohammed, or about different tones of Islam, has to resort to one of the numerous introductory books. The DuMont crash course "Islam" by Walter Weiss should be mentioned here as an example. It offers a particularly clear form facts: the political environment of Muhammad in the 7th century, about the time of the caliphs, the flower of Arab-Islamic culture or militant Mongol Genghis Khan to today's Middle East conflict. Everything on almost 200 pages.

"Unity and diversity - taking these two apparently contradicting phenomena consistently into account, what follows is an attempt to trace the major developments in the history of religion and, closely linked to them, political developments ...

writes the author in the foreword.

"Parallel to this chronological presentation, the fundamentals of faith - the Koran, the Sharia, the prophetic tradition etc. - as well as the most important aspects of everyday life and the rituals of the year and life are dealt with. Also as much and controversially discussed topics as that The position of women and the widespread tendency towards re-Islamization are not left out. "

The DuMont crash course fulfills two functions. For one thing, it is a small encyclopedia. Anyone interested can quickly find what they are looking for using a subject and person index. On the other hand, the book is suitable as an introductory course. Scattered by numerous photographs, images, maps and statistics, it can be read easily from the first to the last page. After that, it should be clearer to the reader why Islam determines the everyday life of its followers more than, for example, Christianity.

"Since Islam knows no separation between religion and everyday life, its doctrine of faith and duty regulates not only the actions of the believers in the cultic and ritual field, but in all situations. Sharia is the all-encompassing basic law of the divine world order, through which the human being Earth is constantly directed. ... After the death of the Prophet, the theologians and legal scholars had worked out a complex set of rules for three centuries in innumerable discourses and teaching circles, which on the basis of the Koran and Hadiths "- that is the prophetic tradition -" all answering and solving only imaginable questions and problems. "

Similar to Peter Heine with his "culture etiquette", Walter Weiss primarily wants to enlighten with his Islam book. He wants to counteract the distorted image of Islam in the media and take away Europeans' distrust of foreign cultures. He formulated this claim long before September 11th. But after the attacks, according to Islamic scholar Peter Heine, this ambition is more necessary than ever.

"What we have at the moment is something like Islamophobia. There are a lot of people who would deny that, but I'm really convinced that a lot of people are simply afraid; and this fear comes first of all from a lack of knowledge And if you go there and get some information, then you can first of all reduce your own fear. You then learn to differentiate, you learn to realize that, as everywhere in all societies, there are different groups, different people, individuals, and that you may then try to get in touch with someone and then discuss with them what all this means. Perhaps you will learn more in this way than through the books, that is to be hoped. "

Peter Heine: Culture etiquette for non-Muslims. A guide for everyday life. Published as a revised new edition by Herder Verlag, Freiburg, 159 pages at a price of DM 19.90. Adel Theodor Khoury, Peter Heine, Janbernd Oebbecke: Handbook Law and Culture of Islam in German Society. Published in G├╝tersloher Verlagshaus, 333 large-format pages, DM 78, - and Walter M. Weiss: Islam. DuMont Buchverlag Cologne, 190 pages, at a price of DM 24.80.