Puritans and Muslims: What They Have in Common

Puritans and Muslims: What They Have in Common

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“Allahu Akbar. Allahu Akbar.” “God is Great. God is Great”. These are the words which every Muslim is required to chant several times a day. The same notion of God’s greatness is also portrayed in Puritan life. The Puritans are a people of religious fervor and strict adherence to the Bible who, without doubt, looked to God in every facet of their life. It is human nature to relate to things we know in order to make sense of the topic at hand. After recently studying Puritan texts, I feel that they express some of the same ideas as the Muslims. Some of the ideas include a sense of community, a contract with God, the notion of fear, and the removal of material goods. The ideas from John Winthrop’s from “A City Upon a Hill”, Anne Bradstreet’s “Verses Upon the Burning of Our House”, Edmund Morgan’s The Puritan Dilemma, and Arthur Miller’s The Crucible all express similar ideas to those of the Muslims. The Muslims have allowed me to create a better understanding of the Puritan ideology present in the gambit of Puritan texts. I understand that the power of religion is a unifying force which can lead to a decline in society.
The idea of a united community is a concept that both the Muslims and Puritans share. In Wintrhop’s sermon he says, “we must be knit together in this work as one man… commerce together, rejoice together, mourn together, labor and suffer together.” Winthrop hoped that religion would help unite the Puritan community by forcing its members to indulge in the same religious ideology. This is similar to the Muslim practice of coming together in order to pray to Allah. The Quran states that people should, “strive together…Towards all that is good,” and that, “Allah will bring you Together,” (2:148). Muslims from all around the world participate in a pilgrimage to Mecca, also known as the Hajj. The Hajj proved to be a positive fixation for the growth of civilization as it fostered a unified religious society. The ancient tradition helps make sense of Winthrop’s sermon “A City Upon a Hill”. The Puritans wanted to unite their community, but had to have everyone devoted to their plan. Therefore they called for everyone to unite and pray to God on the “City Upon A Hill”.

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Both the Muslims and Puritans used the concept of strict adherence to God to unify their societies.
When many religious people come together to live a life blessed with food and shelter, they feel as if they owe something to God. In Winthrop’s “A City Upon a Hill” sermon, he also states that the Puritans are in a contract with God, because He provides for them. Winthrop states that, “We are entered into a covenant with Him for this work.” Thus, Puritans believed they are in debt to God for what He has provided and that He must be reimbursed by prayer and faith. Similarly, Muslim texts support exactly what Winthrop is trying to convey. In line 40 of the second chapter of the Quran it states, “fulfill your covenant with me as I fulfill my covenant with you.” This says that it is the responsibility of man to pray to Allah as he is legally bound to in this “contract” with God. Muslims fulfill this contract by following ideologies also known as the Pillars of Islam. Important aspects of the pillars entail that Muslims should have faith in God and that they should be steadfast in prayer. Similarly Winthrop infers to the Puritans that they should have faith in God and pray on a regular basis to be grateful for He has done for them. By making the Puritans believe in steadfast prayer, he tries to make the Puritans fulfill their part of the contract, or covenant, with God.
Puritans and Muslims were both in constant of fear of the consequences of breaking the contract. Again, from Winthrop’s “A City Upon a Hill” sermon, he states, “Make us know the price of the breach of such a covenant.” This is meant to scare the people into making sure that everyone in the community is working hard, following the Bible, and following the word of God. If they do not, “God would descend in fire and brimstone to punish the whole nation,” (Morgan, 19). The same fear that Puritans have in their community is also expressed in the Muslim community. Chapter 2, verse 278 of the Quran states, “O ye who believe! Fear Allah.” The fear of Allah brings the Muslim community together as they work for one goal of pleasing Him.
The fear- containing contract with a higher power, be it, God or Allah, requires steadfast prayer. Both the Muslims and Puritans believed that in order to carry out a life in service to God, one needs to be removed of material goods as it interferes with their worship. In the latter part of the 20th century, the Arab world of the Middle East became westernized. The new government took away laws that were part of the Shariah ruling system which once governed all Muslims. Such laws were that women did not have to wear burkas and that foreign commerce was heavily focused on trading with western powers. This caused groups of radical Muslims to denounce the western powers and the Muslim regimes of which they influenced. This very notion of removing material and impure objects and ideas is very similar to that of the Puritans. In Anne Bradstreet’s poem titled “Verses Upon the Burning of Our House” she writes, “There’s wealth enough; I need no more. / … My hope and treasure lie above.” After her house burned down she is satisfied with losing her material possession, her house, and realizes that it is God who she must admire. Referring to the similarities of the Puritan ideology of removing material goods, the understanding of removing western, materialistic ideas shows that religious groups must live a pure life without any distractions.
We learn from the Muslims the ways of the Puritans. We learn that the idea of togetherness as present in the Hajj is similar to Winthrop’s idea of a knit community to praise God. The contract or covenant the Quran places is the same as the covenant Winthrop issues between man and God. The denouncing of material goods as it’s a distraction to life is the same principle as Bradstreet writing. The fear instilled by Allah, is the same fear that causes the Puritans to work extremely hard.
Based on all the similarities between the Muslims and Puritans, I have better come to understand the Puritans. Puritanism was a force that unified a body of people by mandating steadfast prayer. Even though a unified community may be beneficial to the stability of society, it instilled the notion of fear in the minds of its people. The issue of fear has created troubles within the Muslims and Puritans. The Puritans feared anyone who did not pray to God as a good Christian would. This caused a series of allegations, commonly known as the Salem Witch Trials. Many people were accused of consorting with the devil. The accusations were based off of the idea that certain people were not religious enough. For example, in The Crucible, Elizabeth Proctor was accused because she did not attend church as often as every other member of the community. To the Puritans, the idea of going to church was extremely important, because they would be pure as they pray to God.
The notion of Islamic fundamentalism or as we commonly refer to it as terrorism, has the same idea of purity. The Islamic fundamentalists believe that the Muslim world shall all pray to Allah, regardless of what country they were from. They called for everyone to be removed of any distractions that will prevent their prayer. These distractions were the western powers, and therefore conflict arose to remove the impurities. Just like the Puritans they want everyone to be steadfast in prayer. Even though religion is influential, both the Muslims and Puritans pushed religion’s power of unity and fear to the limit. They caused so much tension that violence and death seem to be the only resorts.
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