It was an amusing beginning to a not so amusing story. In the year 610AD Muhammad Ibn Abdullah, a 40 year old merchant from the town of Mecca on the Arabian peninsula, was awakened from his sleep (in a cave no less) by a heavenly(?) voice telling him he was the messenger from God. This man, who would go on to establish one of the largest, most militaristic and intolerant religions ever conceived, reacted the way any cold and calculating conqueror would…..he hid under his wife until it went away!! Thus, Islam was born.
Muhammad was born on approximately August 20, 570 AD. His father died soon after his birth and his mother died when he was six leaving the future prophet to be raised as a shepherd by his uncle Abu-Talib. At the age of 25 he cleverly married a rich widow 15 years his senior named Khadeejah. They spawned six children, all of whom died young except for a daughter, Fatima.
The Arabia of the time was populated by warring tribes (sectarian violence anyone?) who took a particular delight in raiding one another’s caravans. Muhammad was a member of the Quraysh tribe and had participated in two local wars with the Banu Hawazin tribe. He was subjected to epileptic seizures, and addicted to prayer and fasting even before his “divine” visitations with the angel he identified as Gabriel had begun. He was also familiar, though somewhat erroneously, with the traditions and customs of the Jewish and Christian people that also inhabited the region.
After his initial encounter with the “angel,” he worried that he was actually being pursued by demons and feared he was becoming possessed by them. His wife encouraged him that these apparitions were real and that he should open himself up to be the prophet of God. This made her his first convert and, as could be expected, his immediate family tended make up his initial following. He began preaching to his own Quraysh tribe about one god and, from the very beginning, was adamant about his role as this god’s one true prophet.
Initially the Meccans were relatively indifferent to his preaching. Their society was a pluralistic one so they were somewhat accustomed to a variety gods and religions. This was further enhanced by their trade relations which likewise kept them aware of “alternative” belief systems. It wasn’t even particularly unusual to declare himself a divine prophet as there were actually quite a few “would be” prophets making the rounds in the Middle East of that time. Since the citizenry of Mecca weren’t responding particularly well to his preaching, Muhammad decided he needed to step up his rhetoric and began assailing the popular pagan gods of the region, as well as to promote the idea that their ancestors may have earned a less than heavenly reward for having died in their disbelief of the one true god. Faced with a “hellfire” preacher in their midst the Quraysh lost their tolerance. His situation deteriorated rapidly when Muhammad’s uncle Abu Talib, head of his Banu Hashem clan, died and was replaced with another of his uncles, Abu Lahab. This uncle particularly disliked Muhammad and his teachings so much that he earned a special mention in the, as yet unwritten, Qur’an.
Qur’an 111 1. Perish the hands of the Father of Flame! Perish he! 2. No profit to him from all his wealth, and all his gains! 3. Burnt soon will he be in a Fire of Blazing Flame! 4. His wife shall carry the (crackling) wood – As fuel!- 5. A twisted rope of palm-leaf fibre round her (own) neck!
As you can see he did not take this rejection well. Intolerance of criticism is a trait that his religion retains to this day.
This rejection, and the ensuing persecution of Muhammad and his approximately 40 followers, led to what the Muslims now call the Hejira. He left Mecca and fled to a nearby village called Medina, in hopes of finding a climate more suitable to incubate his new religion. It is in Medina that Muhammad would truly get his act together and would transform himself from a relatively unsuccessful private preacher to a political and military leader. He established the “Constitution Of Medina” which organized the the new local following, and those who followed in the migation to Medina, into one community called an umma. This one document essentially laid the foundation for all of Islamic law and order to follow. It established the religion of Islam as the source of all social and political organization. This firmly married the religion to the state and they have been INSEPARABLE ever since!
It was in Medina that Muhammad would also begin his military career. Although initially, this amounted mostly to piracy as he and his followers raided the caravans of the Quraysh. These raids provided both a source of income and an opportunity for training his followers. This training would serve a theological purpose as well as the more obvious military one. One particular raid on a caravan at Nakhla was done during the sacred month of Rajab, when such fighting is not permitted. However, not surprisingly, a new “revelation” came from Allah that allowed the raid to be justified because the opposition of the Quraysh to Muhammad was a greater transgression than violating the prohibition against violence during the sacred month. To reject Muhammad is the moral equivalent of persecuting Islam, and accordingly, is worse than killing. Thus the “situational ethics” of Islam is born.
Qur’an Surah 2:216-217: Warfare is ordained for you, though it is hateful unto you; but it may happen that ye hate a thing which is good for you, and it may happen that ye love a thing which is bad for you. Allah knoweth, ye know not. They question thee (O Muhammad) with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: Warfare therein is a great (transgression), but to turn (men) from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel his people thence, is a greater with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing. And they will not cease from fighting against you till they have made you renegades from your religion, if they can.
There are those Islam apologists who will tell you that Islam actually prohibits the targeting of innocent people in conflicts. However the “Doctine of Nakhla” is one of the justifications for doing exactly that. Since non-believers by definition are guilty of persecuting Islam, fighting that persecution, by any means neccessary, is not only tolerated, it is expected. This is not an extremist position. This is mainstream Islam! This is why they celebrate in the streets and rejoice when two buildings full of innocent people come crashing down at the hands of Osama Bin Ladin’s terrorists. It is also why mainstream Islam fails to condemn the actions of terrorists. Quite the opposite, in mosques all over the world (including the United States!) they encourage violence against civilians. Moral absolutes do not exist in Islam. That which benefits Islam at the expense of Islam’s enemies is the whole of the law….And if you are not for them, you are against them.
Shortly after the Nakhla raid, Muhammad and his Muslims fought their first major battle when they attacked a Quraysh caravan at Badr. What first looked like an easy target for the Muslims turned into a much bigger affair when Muhammad’s 300 men found themselves facing a force of over 1000. Yet the Muslims surprisingly routed the Quraysh. The prophet even went so far as to claim that Allah had sent an army of angels to insure that the Muslims prevailed in the engagement.
The victory at Badr came at a convenient time for Muhammad as his influence in Medina had actually been on the wane. He thus used the victory at Badr to consolidate his authority and move against his opposition. The first to find themselves in the line of fire were the Jews of Medina. They had refused to acknowledge him, or his “revelations,” as coming from God. Upon migrating to Medina, Muhammad tried to convert the local Jewish population by pointing out the similarities (some might call it plagiarism) between Islam and Judaism. He even adopted certain Jewish practices such as the fast of Yom Kippur and the Day of Atonement. It is also interesting to note that originally Muslims faced toward Jerusalem for their daily prayers. Instead of being impressed by all these overtures toward their faith, the Jews turned into his biggest critics. They consistently pointed out the errors and inconsistencies of his teachings. Now Muhammad was going to “correct” them.
Since the three Jewish tribes living in Medina also happened to be wealthy, this provided Muhammad with another opportunity for plundering. He banished from Medina the Qainuqu tribe, with whom he had a truce, citing their unwillingness to recognize him as the prophet of God. He then divided up their property among the Muslims. This of course, had the effect of providing the Muslims with an incentive continue to follow Muhammad’s instructions as they tended to profit from them. He even authorized murder when a young Muslim volunteered to fulfill his wishes to kill a Jewish poet, who was accused by Muhammad of insulting Muslim women.
Not all of Muhammad’s military ventures were successful. After a defeat in the battle of Uhud, Muhammad attributed the loss to a lack of faith on the part of his followers.
Qur’an 3:152 GOD has fulfilled His promise to you, and you defeated them by His leave. But then you wavered, disputed among yourselves, and disobeyed after He had shown you (the victory) you had longed for. But then, some of you became distracted by the spoils of this world, while others were rightly concerned with the Hereafter. He then diverted you from them to test you. He has pardoned you. GOD showers the believers with His grace.
Muhammad’s prestige was dented by this setback so he used this as an opportunity to strike against another Jewish tribe. The Nadir. He banished them from Medina and, once again, divided their land and property among the Muslims. However it would be the third Jewish tribe, the Quraiza, that would suffer the worst, as a scapegoat for Muhammad’s greater ambitions.
In 627AD, 10,000 Meccan bedouins laid seige to Medina. Apparently they had tolerated all they could from Muhammad and his Muslim raiders and were determined to rid themselves of the problem once and for all. Unfortunately their military enterprise quickly turned into a disaster. Muhammad had cleverly dug trenches around the city where it would have been vulnerable to calvary attack. Since the cavalry was the strength of the Quraysh army, this rendered their attacks ineffective and, after only two weeks, they left. Muhammad subsequently accused the Quraiza, the richest and most powerful of the original three Jewish tribes of Medina, of collaborating with the Meccans. The 800 men of the tribe were coerced into digging a trench and then told to sit on the edge of it. Then, one by one, they were sytematically beheaded and their bodies tossed into the trench. They then sold their women and children into slavery and, of course, divided the proceeds among the Muslims. From this point on, Muhammad would only regard the Jews as trecherous and evil people. He claimed it was they who falsified scriptures and taught doctrines in error. He changed the Sabbath from saturday to friday as well as changing the direction of daily prayers from Jerusalem to Mecca. Its good to know the history of how these things came about…isn’t it?
After the failed seige of Medina, Muhammad had a “revelation” of making a pilgrimage to Mecca. This was, in fact, a current pagan tradition that he wanted to apply to Islam. We see once again the fluidity of logic that allows Muhammad to plagiarize ideas from other religions and absorb them into his own. Now he would claim that the holy shrine of the Kaaba, in Mecca, was actually built by Abraham and his son Ishmael. Most Arabs are descendents of Ishmael, the illegitimate elder son of Abraham and his wife’s handmaiden Hagar. The Jews, of course, are descended from Abraham’s “legitimate” son by his wife Sarah, who was named Isaac. There is no evidence that Abraham and Ishmael built the Kaaba but it was clever of Muhammad to make this claim and showed his shrewdness in constructing the Islamic myth through his conveniently opportunistic “revelations.”
In 628AD Muhammad led 1500 men on a “pilgrimage” to Mecca. However, the Meccans made it clear they would not let him enter the city. He then negotiated the infamous “Treaty Of Hudaybiyya.” With this treaty, Muhammad agreed to go home but Muslims would be allowed to make the pilgrimage the next year. He even agreed to some terms that most Muslims found distressing. Quraysh men seeking asylum with the Muslims were to be returned to the Quraysh, but Muslims seeking asylum with the Quraysh did not have to be returned. Even worse to the Muslims, Muhammad agreed to not identify himself as “Muhammad the Prophet Of God,” instead he would identify himself as his father’s son in the traditional manner. Despite the extremely unfavorable terms that Muhammad had negotiated, he had the audacity to claim the treaty was, in fact, a victory for both himself and the Muslims.
Because most Muslims viewed this negotiated “victory” a lot less favorably than he did, Muhammad had to find some way of distracting the dissenters among his people. Since turning against the Jews had proved to be a profitable distraction in the past, he decided to stay true to the formula. But alas, there were no more Jews remaining in Medina for him to persecute. He would have to find them elsewhere. Therefore he attacked and laid seige to the Jewish community at Khaibar. When they inevitably surrendered, he followed the now well established tradition of stripping them of their property and dividing it among the Muslims. Initially he wanted to force them to leave, however there weren’t enough Muslims to work the land. Conveniently he was blessed with another “revelation” that instructed him on how to properly subjugate the Jewish population…..To the considerable profit of the Muslims of course.
The “Treaty Of Hudaybiyya” is probably more well known, not for Muhammad’s willingness to make such overwhelming concessions, but for the relative ease with which he would discard its terms. Soon after agreeing to the treaty, a Quraysh woman, Umm Kulthum, came to the Muslims of Medina seeking refuge. When her brothers came for her and demanded she be returned according to the terms of the treaty, Muhammad refused. He claimed Allah forbade it. You see, he had a new “revelation:”
Qur’an 60:10 O you who believe, when believing women (abandon the enemy and) ask for asylum with you, you shall test them. GOD is fully aware of their belief. Once you establish that they are believers, you shall not return them to the disbelievers. They are not lawful to remain married to them, nor shall the disbelievers be allowed to marry them. Give back the dowries that the disbelievers have paid. You commit no error by marrying them, so long as you pay them their due dowries. Do not keep disbelieving wives (if they wish to join the enemy). You may ask them for the dowry you had paid, and they may ask for what they paid. This is GOD’s rule; He rules among you. GOD is Omniscient, Most Wise..
In 629AD Muhammad finally made his pilgrimage to Mecca. He made a relatively strong impression and managed gather a host of new converts along the way. The next year, when a Muslim was killed by a Meccan in a dispute that had nothing to do with the Muslim/Quraysh rivalry, Muhammad used the incident as a pretext for totally discarding the Hudaybiyya Treaty. He advanced on Mecca and, without serious resistance, they surrendered the city to him. This established, for all time, an important principle for Muslims. All truces and treaties forthwith were to be negotiated for no more than ten years, and only entered into to afford a weakened Muslim situation time to strengthen itself, and then it is to be discarded.
To his credit, or more likely, his shrewdness, Muhammad did not force the Meccans to convert to Islam immediately, although he did take to smashing numerous idols to pagan gods. He established the pilgrimage to Mecca as an annual event, now known as the Hajj, and insisted every Muslim must make the journey at least once in their lifetime. In 632AD Muhammad made his first and last “annual” pilgrimage to Mecca. Three months later Muhammad, complaining of headaches and fever, ended his existence on this earth on June 8, 0632AD.
The life of Muhammad is extremely important to understanding how we should interact with Islam in the modern world. 1400 years later he has a much greater influence on the world than he had during his lifetime. In this, and this alone, he shares a similarity with Jesus. As I have shown in this very brief overview of his life, Muhammad established Islam, not just as a religion, but as the basis for all social, political and military associations. It has been that way from the very beginning. Worse, he used the religious aspect of Islam to validate all the morally questionable actions he undertook. This is particularly illuminating with respect to his military expeditions that, all too often, had the objective of providing a source of income for the Muslims as well as suppressing opposition.
Jesus, by contrast, spoke of a kingdom “not of this earth” and said to “Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s; and unto God the things that are God’s.” This is the origin of the concept of a separation between church and state. It is an entirely and uniquely Christian principle! Muhammad, on the other hand, set about acquiring an earthly kingdom and dispensing heavenly justice on earth. There is absolutely no moral equivalence between the two philosophies!
Christianity survived for three centuries as a shunned and persecuted philosophy. Only with Constantine’s Edict of Milan, in 313AD, did Christianity gain tolerance within the Roman system. Contrary to popular belief, Constantine did NOT establish Christianity as the official religion of Rome. That was done in 380AD by Flavius Theodosius. This gives Christianity almost 400 years of incubation as a persecuted cult. By contrast, Islam’s first 400 years saw it conquer the Middle East, Persia, Spain, as well as much of the Byzantine empire. All this would be done in the name of Jihad or “holy war.” It would be the year 1095 with the first Crusade before the concept of ‘holy war” would rear its head in the Christian world….and that would be as a direct result of contact with Islam!
Once the Christian church got a taste of the power and influence it could wield over the populations of Europe through the Crusades, the same corruptions always present in Islam began to take hold in the Christian church. This would eventually work itself out, unfortunately violently, with both the Protestant Reformation and the Catholic Counter Reformation. Eventually Christianity would extract itself from direct participation in government and political affairs as much for its own sake as for that of state sovereignty. However this was accomplished largely through one major act. That of Martin Luther translating the Bible into his own native language, and then utilizing the then new technology of the printing press to distribute it. Thus making the words of, and life of, Jesus available for all to read for themselves. Then informed faithful congregations could “reform” the church themselves. They were no longer vulnerable to those who exploited and profited from their ignorance. This worked because of the life Jesus led and the words he said. This is going to be a problem for those who are looking for an “Islamic Reformation.”
President Bush, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks, tried to quell a potential backlash against Islam in this country by saying that we worship the same God. There are also those who would have you believe in the concept of “Radical Islam” or “Political Islam” as though they are somehow different and separate from the “Real Islam.” As we can see by looking at the life of Muhammad, Islam is a religion that justifies violence, not only to spread its influence, but as a means of providing a financial income as well. Anyone who is not a believer is automatically guilty of persecuting Islam and therefore justified as their prey. Osama Bin Laden is perfectly correct in his behavior according to a true and accurate understanding of Muhammad and Islamic law. How can we realistically hope for so called “moderates” to reform Islam? On what will they base this reform? In truth, there is nothing to reform!
Christianity had the example of a peaceful martyr who laid down HIS life for the salvation of others. Muhammad was no martyr and he was definitely not a peaceful man. He was an opportunistic pirate who was clever enough exploit religion for his own advantage. In this he has much in common with David Koresh and Jim Jones. There is much to suggest, particularly in the successful worldwide expansion of Islam after his death, that his “revelations” may have been the result of real contact with a spiritual being. But it definitely was NOT authorized by the God of Abraham, Moses or Jesus. Whether or not Islam is a Satanic counterfeit religion (which I do believe) or simply the result of a very charismatic fraud, almost doesn’t matter at this point. The die is cast. It’s interesting to note that when Jesus was asked about the sign of his return, he warned his disciples of false religions, explaining that false prophets and even false messianic figures would arise. Check this one off as another fulfilled prophecy.
Considering Islam sustained itself during Muhammad’s life through small raids on caravans, the modern terrorist can find much inspiration to fuel an effective justification of small quick attacks on both local government entities as well as U.S. led coalition forces. Its just the type of warfare they have been engaging in from the very beginning. It is entirely JUSTIFIED by Islam and ISLAM IS THE LAW!! They have been entirely consistent with the teachings and examples of Muhammad. Islam as a religion is a predator. It requires external enemies to provide them with a purpose and to serve as prey. It does not matter what we are fighting for, or if we fight at all. Their’s is a struggle that can not end until we submit to them. It is war they have been fighting for almost 1400 years. The word “Islam” translated means to surrender or submit to the will of God……THEIR GOD! Their God is NOT the same God as the Christian God. Unfortunately, even the President of the United States does not properly understand this fact. I wish he did. If you have read all of this, then perhaps you now understand it.
Islam is at war with the world. It always has been. It is a religious war. It always has been. Still don’t think so? Do you still believe we can “talk” to these people? Dialog? Negotiations? I will leave you with their own words:
“I was ordered to fight all men until they say ‘There is no god but Allah.'” Muhammad, 632AD.
“I shall cross this sea to their islands to pursue them till there remains no one on the face of the earth who does not acknowledge Allah” Saladin 1189AD
“I was ordered to fight the people until they say there is no God but Allah, and his prophet Muhammad.” Osama Bin Laden 2001AD.
With all apologies to Bob Dylan, “The Times They Are NOT A-Changin!'”
Sunday, June17, 2007