"Therefore if the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed."

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Aslan on Jihad and Muhammad's Rise to Power

Chapter 4 of No God but God discusses the meaning of jihad and describes how Muhammad gained power in the region and was later welcomed into Mecca, the city he previously fled. This transition occurred due to a few things:  fighting with the powerful Quraysh tribe which ruled Mecca, declaring Yathrib (also known as Medina) as a sanctuary city (thus making it a site for pilgrimages and opening it up to commerce and diverting funds from Mecca) and raiding caravans in order to acquire wealth.  To my surprise author Reza Aslan matter-of-factly states that this raiding of caravans was not considered stealing, but acceptable practice and the way smaller clans benefited from the wealth of larger ones.  Though annoying to those raided, it was basically par for the course while traveling through the desert. The caravan raids not only gave the Ummah more property and wealth, it gave caravan drivers more of an incentive to travel to Medina instead of further along the unprotected desert to Mecca (more miles to travel equaled more opportunities for raiders to steal.) 

The author discusses the Battles of Badr, Uhud and The Trench and Muhammad's acceptance of the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah and how each of these events contributed to the decline of the powerful Quraysh and the rise of Muhammad.  Although Muhammad's followers didn't understand why he accepted the unfavorable conditions of the treaty, according to Aslan this "decision to to accept the cease-fire and return the following year turned out to be the most decisive moment in the battle between Mecca and Medina.  For when ordinary Meccans saw the respect and devotion with which their supposed enemy and his band of 'religious zealots' entered their city and circled the Ka'ba, there seemed little incentive to continue supporting the war."  (pg. 106)  Indeed a year later when Muhammad returned to Mecca with ten thousand men behind him, "the city's inhabitants welcomed him with open arms."

Perhaps there is a lesson in this about respect going a long way in changing our enemies' minds? Like maybe overcoming evil with good really works!  That's what crossed my mind anyway.

I really enjoyed Reza Aslan's thoughts on jihad and what it meant in early Islam. While he admits that radicals have abused it to justify indiscriminate killing of women, children, noncombatants and so forth, he shared the way jihad was understood in the beginning and by the majority of Muslims today. First, the greater jihad - which does not mean 'holy war' [a Crusader term], but 'to strive, struggle' - is "the struggle of the soul to overcome the sinful obstacles that keep a person from God."  (pg. 81) I've heard people liken it to our Christian fight of faith - a spiritual battle which Paul writes about in Ephesians 6:10-17 when he reminds us to put on the whole armor of God (prayer, faith, truth, the Word of God) so we can resist the devil's schemes.

There is a lesser jihad in Islam which Aslan says "is best defined as a primitive 'just war theory'" where Muslims were allowed to fight in defensive battles with very strict rules: no killing of noncombatants, no raping, no torture of prisoners, no destruction of houses of worship or medical institutions and so forth.  Aslan said that people who claim to kill in the name of Islam yet blatantly break these Islamic rules of war show proof that they are not followers of Islam. They are followers of their own rules!  I think we can agree that all religions have people who do this. Like people who say they are followers of Jesus yet hate and kill and break every single teaching he ever gave.

Alsan told how Muhammad thought his revelation was just a continuation of the ones God gave to the Jews and Christians. That, in essence, we were all one big ummah and his message was just the one meant for (then) current times. Although as the "seal of the prophets" or last of them, his message would be for everyone born for the rest of time on earth.

Aslan notes that Muslims then read the Torah and also that Muhammad considered Orthodox Trinitarians to not be "People of the Book."  We are unbelievers since we associate partners with God (which is the greatest sin in Islam.)

I really enjoyed the explanation of Aslan about every religion being a religion of the sword at the time that Muhammad came on the scene. He said with precious few exceptions, people's religion was their identities, even their citizenship!  (see pg. 80) That part was quite interesting to me and made me think how glad I am to stress relationship with God over religion.  I do believe religion is man-made, but relationship is God made and that's why relationship is far and away superior!  Man is only capable of making chaos of the world. Look at history.  Look at the world today!  Westerners gripe about countries that have inferior human rights and who mistreat their people and oppress them.  Yet we have a whole slew of evils that have made our countries miserable.   So much discord.  So much fighting and shouting and downright hatred! You can almost feel it in the air sometimes. 

Is this the result of people who love God and have the peace of God ruling their hearts and lives?  I think not.

Jesus stated, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9)

If you are not a peacemaker, are you in relationship with God?


sarah said...

Sussanne, excellent post. I agree with the perspective of the author you have outlined. I also see the treaty of Hudaibiya as a clear indication to all (Muslims and others) that the prophet preferred peace, did not value his own honour above all else and that he did not believe in death for apostacy.

Can you be a man of God and be at war? I guess like all else in life it depends on the circumstances. An alternative question is - at what point should you defend yourself, when does persecution need to be fought against and not just ignored? The prophet lived declaring his fame for 13 years before ever lifting a sword to anyone. He actually bore much greater tolerance and patience than most of us.

This is why I have been so upset by the reaction of some Muslims to the Quran burning issue. The threat of violence against the pastor or against America does such a disservice to the character and examples of the prophet that they dishonour the name of Islam.

Lat said...

Very good post,Susanne! Thanks for sharing Azlan's views here.Some view are consistent with what I've read before so it's not so new to me.And thank you again for trying to understand about the Prophet's life.You're a gem :D

Suroor said...

"To my surprise author Reza Aslan matter-of-factly states that this raiding of caravans was not considered stealing ... " - why did it surprise you? :D

I read the lines "For when ordinary Meccans saw the respect and devotion with which their supposed enemy and his band of 'religious zealots' entered their city and circled the Ka'ba ..." as respect and devotion shown to God. I couldn't find words showing respect (and devotion connotates with God!) been shown to Meccans. Even when Mecca was finally conquered there were two options given to Meccans: 1) conversion to Islam or 2) death and it was the Meccans who mostly chose Islam over death which is why there was almost no blood shed (except for a few death sentences).

I remember when I read the book I got this feeling like Aslan was very clearly making the point ... that it was the Meccans who chose not to retaliate; that they were the real peacemakers. I read somewhere else that the Meccan population was something around 4000-5000 people (women and children included) and so when 10,000 Muslims came to Mecca there seemed little sense in retaliating - they knew that the *battle* was lost. Maybe I missed the point.

One more point that I found very interesting was that Hamza Yusuf explained why Kaaba was called "haram." Haram is from Haraam and it was a place where no one could be violated. If a woman, child, old person or even a man entered the Kaaba (in pagan times) he automatically received protection and s/he became inviolable. He explained that it was this original pagan concept that was carried forward into Islam and during war anyone taking refuge with the Muslims became inviolable - in other words they had entered the Kaaba, a place of 'haram.' Therefore, when Mecca was conquered, all other kabaat in the vicinity of Mecca and Medina (like in Taif) were demolished and all pagan gods were smashed to pieces. No pagan place of worship was allowed to stand, but Kaaba, the original haram was not (or couldn't be) violated even though the idols in it were brought out and smashed. Anyone taking refuge there came under automatic protection of the Muslims as a continued pagan tradition.

Suroor said...

Oh and about the Trinitarians - they were the heretics in 7th C Arabia. Almost all Arab Christians during that time were Arians or Nazarenes who were accepted as the People of the Book. Trinitarians belonged to Yemen, Syria and Palestine and they were treated as heretics by the Arabians and hence not treated as real People of the Book by Muhammad. Like the Jews who worshipped Ezra, the Trinitarians were seen as those who were misled.

sarah said...

Suroor, I am not sure I agree about Meccans being the peacemakeers. Firstly, Abu Sufyan came to the prophet before he entered Mecca and asked for an amnesty which he granted to all except 13 people. So the Meccans chose not to fight.

BUT even though the population may have been smaller they had a huge army at their command through their allies.

They had chosen to persecute the muslims even those who were refugees in Absynia. Then they reserved the right to kill Muslims who came to them and were not required to return them to Medina as per the Hudabiya pact. They had started wars against the Muslims several times in the vicinity of Medina.

Can they really be called peacemakers or can it be said that they were the loosers? Can you be a peacemakers after yu have initiated the war?

Also, I am not aware of the two choices of the Meecans you mentioned. In fact I know that non-Muslims fought with Muslims to defend Mecca after the Muslims had conquered it. How can those two choices then be true?

Suroor said...

Sarah, I don’t agree with that assessment either. I was only commenting on how I read Aslan as opposed to how Susie read it. And I mentioned that “they knew that the *battle* was lost” so yes they did sort of lose.

My study into the history of it shows that the reason Meccans accepted defeat albeit peacefully was purely economic. That was the initial reason for their persecution of the Muslims and that is what made them finally accept them. It is supported by Tabari, Ibn Hisham, Ghazali, as well as a few modern Muslim historians who don’t paint an alternative picture. Bringing the Hajj into Islam had a lot to do with it. However, I don’t believe that it was the heathens who had started the wars, and again this is not supported by Orientalist sources; it is right there in Islamic history books. They would have left Muslims alone in Medina had the latter not started raiding caravans. Even Aslan states that the first 4 were the reason behind Badr.

The two choices: one thing most Muslims do is dump all non-Muslims together whereas in Islam there were groups of non-Muslims that were accepted and non-Muslims that were not accepted. Christians, Jews, Hanifs and Sabians were the ones who were accepted by Muslims. Zoroastrians were tolerated. Heathens were persecuted unless they converted. In fact, even after the Prophet’s death there continued to be Muslims who converted to Christianity and the religion of the Hanifism but they were not killed. The only people who were killed for apostasy were those who converted back to Paganism. So there were non-Muslims who supported Muslims but they were either Hanifs or Sabians. Many Islamic practices have roots in the religious practices of the Sabians and they were much liked by Muslims for their peaceful nature.

Ibn Kathir and Tabari both have references to pagans been given two choices; the one I can quote from is from Ibn Hisham:

“The apostle sent Khalid Ibn al-Walid to the tribe of the children of Haritha and told him: "Call them to accept Islam before you fight with them. If they respond, accept that from them, but if they refuse, fight them." Khalid told them: "Accept Islam and spare your life." They entered Islam by force. He brought them to the apostle. The apostle said to them: "Had you not accepted Islam I would have cast your heads under your feet"


The apostle said: "Woe to you, O Abu Sufyan. Is it not time for you to realize that there is no God but the only God?" Abu Sufyan answered: "I do believe that." He then said to him: "Woe to you, O Abu Sufyan. Is it not time for you to know that I am the apostle of God?" Abu Sufyan answered: "By God, O Muhammad, of this there is doubt in my soul." Ibn Abbas who was present with the apostle told Abu Sufyan: "Woe to you! Accept Islam and testify that Muhammad is the apostle of God before your neck is cut off by the sword." Thus he professed the faith of Islam and became a Muslim."

Suroor said...

I am curious - have you read the letters of the Prophet to different heads of the states? There is a definite shift in tone. The last one he wrote after the conquest of Mecca was to the two ruler-brothers (Jaifer and Abd Al Jalandi) of Oman which is now encased in a museum in Oman and I have seen it with my own eyes. Part of it reads as:

“Embrace Islam. Allâh has sent me as a Prophet to all His creatures in order that I may instil fear of Allâh in the hearts of His disobedient creatures so that there may be left no excuse for those who deny Allâh. If you two accept Islam, you will remain in command of your country; but if you refuse my Call, you’ve got to remember that all your possessions are perishable. My horsemen will appropriate your land, and my Prophethood will assume preponderance over your kingship."

So sources actually show that “fear was instilled” and people were attacked and also killed if they rejected Islam but it was always the pagans. Sabians (who were also called People of the Book), Christians and Jews, along with the Hanifs and Magians etc were tolerated and even flourished under Muslim rule.raw

sarah said...

Suroor, Sorry I did not mean to sound confrountational in my tone.

My initial reaction is of these things (and I am certainly no expert)
1) I have read the hadith about Abu Sufyan but this exchange took place as the Muslims were preparing to enter Mecca and he came to plead for leniency. He did not accept Islam then but went to Mecca and only after it was conquered he converted. I was not aware of the last statement about killing him.

As for the Meccans reacting to caravan raids, firstly, caravan raids were normal business for the arabs of the time. It was not unusual and so therefore in itself was unlikely to start a war. Also, there is the statement of one Quraish (I forget who) on the day the prophet left Mecca that he would kill him and wipe out Islam and would not rest while there was a breath left in his body. Nothing about caravan raids there.

I have read the letters and although they appear threatening this is perhaps one perspective of many. The language may be a warning of possible future events and is not necessarily a threat. Given the visions of the prophet as he broke the rock preparing for the battle of the ditch this could well be the case.

Also, if they were written in later life then it may be possible that the prophet has more urgency if he knew he was about to die and so was giving a warning.

Fear is part of religious motivation for many religions - unfortunately for many modern Muslims that fear has become physical and the spiritual meanings are lost.

As for pagans being persecuted while I think their idols were persecuted I do not think any came to physical harm because of their beliefs. As I said before many fought with the Muslims to defend Mecca after it's fall.

But thanks for your comments, I will try and get time to look up the references you mentioned.

Suroor said...

Oh I am sorry, Sarah, if I sounded confrontational which I usually do when I have a long comment to write and a lot going on in my head :)

I think I know the problem - I was just reading a book by an Indian writer and he insists that anthropology should be rejected when studying religions. I think I'm looking at situations from a very neutral position through history and anthropology. Perhaps I shouldn't do that. To me fear is wrong no matter who instills it. That is my greatest bone to pick with Watts who thought that monotheism was so important that it doesn't matter who killed whom to attain its acceptance. No one should force another person to believe.

Raids too were ok by pagan Arabs but killing during raids was not and killing during their holy month was a great sin. Muslims did both and they cheated them by shaving off their heads to appear like pilgrims and hide amongst the caravan to later attack them. That is what irked them.

sarah said...

Suroor,I agree that no-one should be killed to accept any faith and physical fear is not a valid means of conversion.

Interesting about the shaving the head and hiding amongst pilgrims. I have not heard that it was the practice of the prophet. In fact he entered Mecca unarmed when he went for Hajj and he turned back from Hudabiya without using force so I am sure this is not his behaviour.

As for pre-Muslim people not killing during raids I would dispute that too. From my understanding there were long bloody tribal fueds started and maintained over triffles where many lives were lost so I do not believe that they were a peaceful society with a high regard for human life and Islam came using a force unknown to them.

I also understood that many of the raids were conducted when the Muslims were patrolling the borders of Medina and then came accross non-Muslims or non-allied tribes who, given the vocal threats, served a very real threat to the life of the inhabitants. Such security arrangements have been done for centuries why are the early Muslims singled out for censure on this issue.

But for me this is not the main philosophy or teaching of Islam. Ultimately what actual evidence is there anyway one way or the other? There are only oral traditions and the Quran. People can chose to believe reports or not and taking the general behaviour, character and principles of the prophet I chose not to believe the negative perception of reported events. Perhaps this makes me naive but no-one can actually be certain which interpretation of reports is correct.

The Muslims also certainly did not hide amongst them before they were persecuted to the extent that they had to leave for Medina. While they were in Mecca for 13 years they suffered violence and social ostracism without retaliating at all. The Meccans made vocal threats against them before any muslim ever lifted a sword.

But these issues have always plagued the Muslims and unfortunately nowadays many Muslims are using violence to spread their version of holy war and it highlights these issues more and makes us examine the role of violence in our religion.

Suroor said...

Sarah, I think you are referring to the 10 Hijri events whereas I was referring to the early raids in 2-3 Hijri.

I think if there are ample sources that refer to the same incidents but the chain of sources is different then there is greater probability that the incident did occur especially if the Quran refers to it even if vaguely.

Ibn Hisham, Waqidi, Tabari, Bukhari and Ibn Sad, all refer to the early raids that led to the battle of Badr. The heathens of Arabia were killers and looters and raids were tolerated but the universal rule of these raids was that no life would be attacked. It is a faulty belief that because Arabs had long tribal feuds that they killed in raids. It is one thing to say that they were not peaceful people (which they were not!) and another thing to assume that there were no battle rules. Since the heathens fought incessantly, their battle rules were quite developed. Hamza Yusuf has often talked about that aspect of Arabian life.

Before Badr Muslims had already conducted seven raids. No fighting took place in the first raid. However, in the second raid Sad ibn Abi Waqqas, shot an arrow at the Quraysh which shocked them because it was unusual. This is still called the “first arrow of Islam.” The third raid was uneventful as well. In the fourth raid, the Prophet took part himself.

It was the seventh raid that was the beginning of bloodshed. This raid was called the Nakhla Raid carried out in December of 623 (2 AH). Abdullah ibn Jahsh was the commander. The raid took place in the month of Rajab which was a holy month of the pagans. One Muslim raider, Ukkash ibn Mihsan, shaved his head to appear as a pilgrim on Umra (Rajab was a month of pagan Umra). Rajab was one of the four holy months in which fighting was strictly forbidden and the Quraish did not expect anyone to attack and kill. However, the Muslims attacked and killed the leader of the caravan, Amr ibn Al-Hadrami.

As this killing happened in a sacred month, all pagans and Jews who supported Muslims withdrew their support. However, the verse 2:217 was revealed stating that indeed it is awful to kill in a holy month (of the pagans – it wasn’t a Muslim holy month?!) but kufr is worse than killing.

This raid was the reason behind the Battle of Badr.

sarah said...

Suroor, thanks for the detailed information. Most of these specifics are new to me although I was aware of the raids in general as early sa 2-3 hijra.

I just have a couple of questions:
1) Why were the Quraish so near to Medina? This is more suspicious given that they had already done physical harm to the Muslims and threatened to kill them all.

2) Why was their inconsistency? Sometimes there was bloodshed sometimes not. It seems that all the circumstances are not recorded. Can it be the 'first arrow if Islam' when then Quraish have already been violent and were now moving towards Medina to carry out their threats?

3)What about the actual attemots on the life of the prophet? There are many recorded from the Meccan period and even as he left for Medina. In Medina he had a guard outside his door. So did the Muslims begin the violence or were they reacting to the threats and actual harm done by the Quraish?

A bigger question is, when is it justified to take up arms for your cause?

As for the battle of Badr the companions as they set out did not know if they were meeting the heavily armed caravan or a large army. They were hoping to meet the caravan but met the army instead. Why was the caravan armed? This was normal practice from pre-Islam. If no violence ever ocurred why were the people armed.

There are plenty of rules of war for Muslims including not to harm other places of monotheistic worship or to remove trees or damage crops. The Muslims were not the barbarians they are often portrayed as being.

Susanne said...

sarah, thanks for your comments! Yes, I agree that my over-reacting to weird people who want to be hateful, you are not acting in the spirit of Muhammad by overlooking wrongs for the sake of peace and goodness. Excellent point!

Susanne said...

Lat, you're welcome! I've enjoyed reading about this and am really glad to have people like you giving feedback and enriching the experience! :)

Susanne said...

Suroor, I guess I just think of taking things from others as stealing and know even though something is legal culturally/politically, doesn't make it right morally. But I'm antiquated like that, I guess. :)

Yeah, maybe the respect was only to God and not the Meccans, but it must have impressed them somehow. Or at least Aslan thinks so, but I know he's a bit biased. :) Thanks for what you pointed out as I know you are much more knowledgeable on all this than I. So the Meccans were outnumbered and they decided to be peaceful because they knew Muhammad *could* defeat them with his 10,000 followers? Hmmm, I guess I didn't realize the Muslims outnumbered the Meccans at this point - interesting things you added!

I enjoyed what you stated about the Kaaba and it being a place of refuge. That's pretty neat!

I enjoyed your exchange with Sarah. I agree that Aslan makes Muhammad out to be the instigator of these wars with the Meccans. He told how first he made Medina into a rival city to challenge the economics, then the whole raiding of caravans (to provoke them maybe??) and Aslan said Muhammad set his sights on Mecca. I assumed for the Kaaba's importance, but maybe I am wrong about this.

Can I just say how strongly I disagree with conversions by force? Christians or Muslims being the forceful ones, I utterly hate and disagree with this practice! Aslan notes how even Hind the lady who HATED Muhammad and Islam with a passion converted, but still she hated Muhammad. How can this woman be a true Muslim? Why do you even WANT the fake ones in your ummah? To brag about numbers? How many are converting to Islam? Does 'intention of the heart' and truly practicing the faith not count for ANYTHING? Or is it only important that one calls herself Muslim, but makes her own rules? I never will understand this, I'm afraid. I'm all for dawah/evangelizing. I believe Jesus taught it so I'm fine with it. However, I NEVER would think of forcing people to convert because I realize it's a matter of choice. It's a matter of a person entering a relationship with God and I cannot force that to happen! I suppose I should read these early forced conversions and tough talk (like the letter to the Omani kings) as more political things than spiritual. For they show far more that Muslims were concerned with governing (politics) rather than the state of a person's heart. But then Aslan informed me in this chapter that this was normal at that time when your religion defined your politics/loyalty/citizenship. I wonder how many of these people had true relationships with God. I guess we'll find out in heaven. :)

Thank you all for your comments!

Suroor said...

No problem Sarah!

I don’t know if I understand your first question. Are you confusing trade caravans with bands of armed men? These were trade caravans and Medina was on the way to Mecca for trade routes from Iran, Iraq, Yemen and Syria. An excellent resource explaining these trade routes and caravans is Crone, Patricia (2004). Meccan Trade and the Rise of Islam. Gorgias Press LLC. So of course the pagan caravans had to be close to Medina to reach Mecca, but they were also intercepted sometimes away from Medina.

Regarding inconsistency, it is said that in the first few raids Muslims got nothing and in frustration the first arrow was shot. However, that didn’t happen on Muhammad’s orders and he apologized and everything was back to normal until the 7th raid. That too left the Prophet livid who wouldn’t touch the booty until the revelation okayed it. In both cases the attack was not premeditated hence the inconsistency.

As for the threats on the Prophet’s life in Mecca, many historians including Armstrong and Aslan have said that those threats began only when the Prophet began urging the Meccans to break their idols and give up their religion. Initially they were not too bothered. And both also note that if the Meccans had really wanted to kill all Muslims it wasn’t that difficult. The fact is the early Muslims belonged to powerful tribes and killing them was not all that simple.

“when is it justified to take up arms for your cause?”

I don’t know. I can’t give a religious reason since most prophets Biblical and non-Biblical didn’t take up arms and were killed sometimes. The only ones who took up arms were kings and politicians (David, Solomon, Ram etc) and they didn’t have religious reasons to take up arms, but political reasons to follow.

At Badr which was fought 3 months after the 7th raid, the Quraish had assembled an army to protect and guard the trade caravan of Abu Sufyan. Muslims had no idea what was happening. There were two groups – the trade caravan and the army. Caravans never carried weapons unless the trade was done in arms and weapons that were being brought back.

Yes, Muslims have battle rules but first, Muslims arose out of pagan Arabs so they were very much like them by nature (so either we say that Muslims and pagans were both not barbarians or that they were both barbarians – Hamza Yusuf’s The History and Legends of the Pagan Arabs paints a very generous picture of Arabs and he often speaks about their great generosity and honesty – I think it is the other way around, we paint a horrible picture of the pagans) – in fact both Muslim attackers in the raids explicitly did NOT follow instructions, and second Muslim laws didn’t suddenly come down in one go. It took years for laws to develop and studies show that 80% laws were laid down in the last 5 years of the Prophet’s life. Of course these laws are valid but before these laws were laid down we also have the instance of the Prophet ordering that the date farm of the Banu Nadir be burned down.

Suroor said...

“I just think of taking things from others as stealing and know even though something is legal culturally/politically, doesn't make it right morally.”

Susie, I’ll be honest; I have struggled with this too. It is very difficult to accept that no one found anything wrong with it. Of course the pagans didn’t know right from wrong, like we believe, but does that make raids ok?! It is definitely a difficult area for me and I try to look at it from a purely political perspective and take out all religious elements out of it.

Yea, by the time Mecca was conquered there were many people who had accepted Islam and the numbers had also risen when women and children of other tribes were imbibed into the ummah as booty.

“Aslan makes Muhammad out to be the instigator of these wars with the Meccans…”

I felt Aslan openly said what others said in a roundabout manner. Armstrong and Watt both made similar claims but sugar coated it. Early historians like Waqidi and Ibn Hisham glorified the same events. Aslan just threw the bitter pill at us! Yes, Kaaba was very important. Even the very traditional scholars accept that including Ibn Kathir, Waqidi and Ghazali.

I feel comfort in knowing that Muhammad is on the top list of the most influential people in history because of his policies, not religious beliefs. There were monotheists before him and many after him too, but a statesman like him has never come again. Islam is a practical religion because of his policies and the decisions he took. It is more than a religion; it is a system (in a good way!). Judaism and Christianity spread after Moses and Jesus died but Islam began spreading while Muhammad was alive.

“Religion defined your politics/loyalty/citizenship.” I felt like it was the politics/loyalty/citizenship that defined the religion! That is how I see history. There is a hadith in which a man said he hated Muhammad but fought against pagans for war booty and Muhammad always gave him a large share and he said, “the apostle continued to give me so much until he became the man I loved the most”! I see politics and loyalty defining a man’s religion here. Or the women and children who were captured, they too converted (except for a stubborn few like Raihana) because there was no way out.

Hind was a very strong woman. I wonder why we think women were so oppressed when we have examples of very strong women from pagan times like Khadeejah and Hind both.

Suroor said...

I loved the discussion on this post, ladies. Thank you so much for tolerating me :)

sarah said...

Suroor, I am definately not 'tolerating' you. I have respect for your interest and knowledge and you always express yourself very respectfully. I enjoy seeing your perspective. There are a lot of valid points in what you said and some new info for me. I just think that it is very difficult to judge practices because the standards we have today are so vastly different. But in the fundamentals of Islam which I follow I do not see any abuse of rights or of people and I feel that thiese are what all religions should at their core teach - respect for God and respect for all people regardless of faith. It is through this criteria which I judge the actions of the prophet.

I'm off to read a book of Ibn Arabiss work as these and other discussions just show how much more I have to learn!

Hope you have a nice day and susanne too.

Susanne said...

Suroor, about the caravan raids being OK rather than considered stealing ...

I often get the impression that humanists think we have these moral rules that come pre-programmed and that it isn't God who makes us moral, but evolution has made us know instinctively that some things are right and some are wrong. Well here is an example of stealing not being considered wrong. If I put this into a modern example, how would you feel if your family worked very hard to produce hundreds of crops and while on your way to market, a group of bandits stopped you and took much of your hard work? Time is money! You worked hard for those crops! They represent your time, energy, sweat, frustrations, yet someone else just swooped down and did away with all that. I'd be livid! It's wrong to do this. Yet this was OK for the Arabs.

Now we can say they were pagans so they had no moral code. That's more understandable although it proves that we don't have goodness programmed in us like some suggest. So pagans stealing is more understandable. But MUSLIMS who were supposedly following God - the same God who explicitly told the Jewish nation "thou shalt not steal." It was already in the moral code of humans all the way back to Moses' time! (How could a prophet of God - Muhammad - not know this?) Stealing is stealing. You can justify it politically, but again just because something is legal (in a community) does NOT mean it's right before God. And if God and community clash, I think the righteous person would choose to obey God's laws rather than societal norms.

God calls us to a higher standard of living than what comes naturally, doesn't He? This is what makes HIM holy and pure compared to us. This is why I was bothered by this. If Islam is a religion then they shouldn't be stealing. Not if they consider themselves a continuation of what Moses and Jesus brought. This is regressing instead of progressing.

" I see politics and loyalty defining a man’s religion here."

In my post about the learned men (I hope you read it and comment on it if you have something to add) I quoted from Aslan who said many of the hadiths were accepted as strong NOT because the chain of transmission was especially good, but because it was simply what the majority in the area practiced or believed. So I can see cultural norms/beliefs defining the religion in a sense. And it really makes the role hadiths play in Islam very questionable to me. If cultural norms made a hadith strong rather that it being "divinely inspired by the life of the Prophet" (what Muh really did or said) then ... doesn't this make your religion very man-made?

You know I love when you comment so no mere "tolerating" goin' on here! :D

Sarah, thank you! I hope your day has been pleasant. I appreciate the perspective you add to these conversations so I thank you for taking time to read and comment!

Suroor said...

Sarah, Thank you so much for your generosity :) I am very interested in religion, especially Islam and I am still trying to understand so many concepts and hence my eagerness to discuss :) Thank you!

Susie, See, this is my problem. I don’t know how to understand it. But just as I was reading your comment, a thought came to me. Bible and even the Quran refer to Jesus as sinless. He is the only man who is called sinless, while Muhammad is called “only human” many times. Maybe the caravan raids just prove that he was not infallible; that he could make mistakes; he could err?

I can understand your pov because as a Christian you are always comparing others with Jesus’ perfect example, but then if you think that Jesus was God no man would even come close to measure up to him, would they? What I think we, Muslims, should do is also realise that Quran doesn’t claim that the Prophet was sinless or that the raids were good or bad. Perhaps he never knew that raiding caravans was like stealing. I know this is a very progressive way of looking at things and I almost sound like a Quranist :) but this hypothesis may actually help us understand a lot of other issues like his marriage to Aisha and Zainab and allowing temporary marriages as well as concubinage with slaves.

Many progressive Muslims refuse to follow the Prophet’s example to the last detail because we realise that we can’t own slaves or have sex with them in this age or that we can’t raid caravans and steal from them. I think we should all be progressive like that because if you look at it Muslim women in Yemen still actually fight against those who want to ban child marriages, raids were happening in Saudi Arabia until 1930s when Europeans who would go to Arabia to buy horses were always afraid they would be robbed and Saudi Arabia was the last country to reluctantly ban slavery; in fact Sudan still deals in slave trade.

Susanne said...

Suroor, yes, caravan raids maybe are there to prove Muhammad isn't sinless. Interesting thought. It just seems so cut and dry to me, but I'm sure there are things that others centuries from now won't believe I stood for as it seems just so right to them and they can't believe I didn't see it the same way as their progressive selves. :)