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Arab history

Reader comment on item: The Pentagon Looks at the Koran
in response to reader comment: Islam under the Prophet Muhammad

Submitted by Henrik Ræder Clausen (Denmark), Oct 10, 2006 at 18:32

This is fun. Let's chop up some more.

"Prior to Islam, Arab tribes were disunited tribes always at war with each other. "

You're not giving any sources for this, which is a shame. You should. Basing myself on Ibn Ishaq, the first biographer of Muhammad, and general Middle East history, I put down stuff for you to refute:

Prior to Islam, war was rare in Arabia. The neighbouring countries had invaded each other back and forth, the Arabs never invaded anyone. It was so peaceful that the Jewish settlements didn't even have any weapons to counter with when Muhammad and the Muslims attacked them. The result was plunder, murder enslavement and/or exile.

"Their lifestyle was based on the powerful over the weak."

Not nearly the the same degree as after Islam. Islam instituted a strict hierachy, where before each tribe was self-ruling.

"The superior tribe at the time was the tribe in which the Prophet Muhammad belonged."

In Mecca only, which was a relatively benign place. In larger Yathrib (now Medina) the Jewish tribes were the best established (a thousand years) and the wealthiest. Just for the record.

"So he did not need to invent a religion to gain power."

Sortof true, sortof not. He was left as an orphan when first his father died, and a few years later his mother. This puts clear traces in the Quran, which has many references to 'do not abadon the orphan', 'do not squander the wealth of orphans' and the like. There is little doubt that Muhammad saw himself as the (more or less rightful) heir to the religion of the Ka'aba, but unfortunately his tribe differed. Eventually he got well off by marrying to money :)

Worth knowing is that it was his grand-grand-grandfather Qusayy who invented the religion, not Muhammad himself. Complete with Allah, the Ka'aba and the five pillars.

"He could have let things remain as they were and still gain power."

Here it gets interesting.

"In fact one of the leaders at the time told him that they would make him king and give him all of the women and riches he wanted if he abandoned Islam."

Exactly. It's here:
Tabari VI:106 "The Quraysh promised Muhammad that they would give him so much wealth that he would become the richest man in Mecca, they would give him as many wives as he wanted, and they would submit to his commands." "The Quraysh said, ‘This is what we will give you, Muhammad, so desist from reviling
our gods and do not speak evilly of them.'"
Tabari VI:107 "‘If you will do so, we offer you something which will be to your advantage and to ours.'" "‘What is it,' he asked. They said, ‘If you will worship our gods, Al-Lat and Al-Uzza, for a year, we shall worship your god for a year."

What happened then? Muhammad took the deal, starting to call people to Allah (and a few other deities):

Ishaq:162 "Abu Jahl met the Apostle and said, ‘By Allah, Muhammad, you will either stop cursing our gods or we will curse the god you serve.' So the Qur'an verse was revealed, ‘Do not insult those to whom they pray lest they curse God wrongfully through lack of knowledge.' [Qur'an 6:108] I have been told that the Apostle then refrained from cursing their gods, and began to call them to Allah.

Tabari 108: "So Muhammad debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome. Then Allah revealed: ‘By the Star when it sets, your comrade does not err, nor is he deceived; nor does he speak out of his own desire. [In truth, he did all three and was about to prove his guilt.] And when he came to the words: ‘Have you thought about Al-Lat, Al-Uzza and Manat,' Satan, when he was meditating upon it and desiring to bring reconciliation, cast on his tongue, because of his inner longings and what he desired, the words: ‘These are exalted high-flying cranes (goddesses). Verily their intercession is accepted with approval."

There was joy in his old tribe. Muhammad even started prostrating himself, and the other Muslims followed his example. This appears to be the first time Muslims did so, as a direct result of what's known as 'The Satanic Verses'. This tradition is still a hallmark of Islam today.

Tabari VI:108/Ishaq:166 "When the Quraysh heard this, they rejoiced and were delighted at the way in which he spoke of their gods, and they listened to him. While the Muslims, trusting their Prophet in respect to the messages which he brought, did not suspect him of a vain desire or slip. When he came to the prostration, having completed the surah, he prostrated himself and the Muslims did likewise, obeying his command and following his example."

The deal with the Quraysh tribe was set to last one year. Very conveniently, Muhammads wife died at the same time, setting him free to marry Aisha and enjoy the wives his tribe provided him with. There is no recorded history about Muhammad and his tribe for this period. It is known that certain passages of Ibn Ishaq have been removed and are lost because they could paint a negative image of Muhammad. This may be one of them.

After the deal, obviously a renewal didn't work out (details are unknown), and Muhammad was thrown out of the Ka'aba worship system. This is where recorded history resumes, I'll assume you know this.

"Arabs was disunited for centuries before Muhammad with warring tribes and he united them within 23 years."

From farmers and merchants to aggressive warriors, attacking all countries around them. This was the change brought about by Muhammad. Yes, I know my history. But this confuses me. You think war and conquest is good, staying home caring for your lands and family bad? Of course, that would make you a good, non-hypocritical Muslim.

Comments welcome.

Submitting....

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