Part 1: THE SAMENESS ILLUSION
Part 3 A: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-A
Part 3 B: THE ISLAMIC COUNTER NARRATIVE-B (Noah)
Part 4: So Who is Allah?
On going series on the difference between Allah and Lord GOD of the Bible.
THE INITIAL CALL (DA’WA)
So, how did this all happen in real-time? And what are the implications for today?
Unfortunately, the only source that the Muslim scholars rely on to provide a presumed historical account of Muhammad’s career is given in various versions of what is termed the “Sirah” (purported biography). This was written well after his death at different times by different authors who relied heavily on oral traditions.
The Sirah is both authoritative, and considered to be somewhat speculative. In examining these belated chronicles of Muhammad’s career, it all started with his initial proclamations of absolute oneness of Allah, as in:
Surah 112, “Say: ‘He is Allah, One. Allah, the self-sufficient, besought of all. He neither begot, nor was begotten. Nor is there anyone equal to him.’”
Thus, Muhammad declares all others as forms of idolatry, and in particular, the divine Sonship of Christ, to be the highest form of idolatry and therefore an unforgivable sin (called Shirk in Islam).
Immediately, Muhammad would declare and institute the Islamic creed (i.e. statement of faith), the Shahadah, requiring that to be a Muslim, one must by necessity and without compromise, believe in both Allah and Muhammad. And whosoever does not believe in Muhammad, and his divine call as the final Prophet is rendered a “Kafir” (meaning apostate) even though he might fully believe in the oneness of Allah.
The Qur’an redefines the “oneness” of the Lord God of the Bible through the Islamic creed (the Shahadah) and supporting Surahs, so that the worship of Jesus Christ would appear to be the worship of an elevated man (i.e. a partner or associate), and thus “idolatry”. This left a question as to how this purged absolute “oneness of Allah” should be worshipped (explained earlier, in So Who is Allah?).
Initially, the pagan Arabs of Mecca were seriously shaken by Muhammad’s call (Da’wa), which he started to carry out publicly within the Meccean community after three years (from 610 to 612 AD) of a “private Da’wa” to only his closest associates. Starting the public Da’wa in 612, Muhammad openly attacked the entire concept of idol worship which was the basis of Meccean society.
Surah 53:19-25, “Have you then considered Al-Lat, and Al-’Uzza (two idols of the pagan Arabs) And Manat (another idol of the pagan Arabs), the other third? Is it for you the males and for Him the females? That indeed is a division most unfair. They are but names which you have named, you and your fathers, for which Allah has sent down no authority. They follow but a guess and that which they themselves desire….”
Throughout the year visitors would come to Mecca for worship, purchase statues of the idol gods, trade and much more, so that the entire Meccean economy had depended on the idol worship. By removing the idols, the cultic intermediaries would become irrelevant, and thus would render the need to make the annual pilgrimage (Hajj) to Mecca unnecessary. As a religious centre of Arabia, Mecca was also a cultural centre with the annual cultural fair, Ukaz, which took place around the Hajj season. By challenging idol worship, Muhammad was cutting off the past devotions to idols and rallying the people around himself, as a new prophet.
As recorded in the Sirah as well as the Qur’an itself, the Quraish (chief tribe of Mecca) leadership did not accept his prophethood claim. There were many Jews and Christians in Mecca so the pagans were aware of their beliefs, especially in regard to the Biblical prophets. Muhammad was put to the challenge: “If you are a true prophet, where are your signs and miracles?”, they would ask. Surah 17:90-93 provides one illustration:
Surah 17:90-93, “And they say: ‘We shall not believe in you (O Muhammad), until you cause a spring to gush forth from the earth for us; ‘Or you have a garden of date-palms and grapes, and cause rivers to gush forth in their midst abundantly; ‘Or you cause the heaven to fall upon us in pieces, as you have pretended, or you bring Allah and the angels before (us) face to face; ‘Or you have a house of adornable materials, or you ascend up into the sky, and even then we will put no faith in your ascension until you bring down for us a book that we would read….’”
Muhammad’s initial response was that the Qur’an itself was his “miracle” according to the following:
Surah 17:88, “Say: ‘If humankind and the Jinns were together to produce the like of this Qur’an, they could not produce the like thereof, even if they helped one another.’”
Surah 2:23, “And if you are in doubt concerning that which we have sent down (i.e. the Qur’an) to our slave (Muhammad), then produce a Surah of the like thereof and call your witnesses besides Allah, if you are truthful.”
PEOPLE OF THE BOOK: A NECESSARY EVIL?
But to fully consolidate his “prophethood” he needed the consent and approval of the Jews and Christians of his day in order for him to have some form of relevance or standing, or at least not to be completely against them.
In the initial phases, he would describe Jews and Christians apparently positively as the “People of the Book”, the custodians of the earlier scriptures: the Tawrat, Zaboor and Injeel. He would go further and praise their prophets, elevating them to the level of infallibility. And he would adopt some of their rituals and practices, though altering them to fit his new definition of Allah.
By showing what appeared to be some “agreement” with the beliefs of Jews and Christians, he kept them in the dark, pacified, and thus manipulated them. During those initial stages, they thought he was either on their side to some extent, or at least rather harmless. Then he would carry out the bold stroke to announce that he, Muhammad, was the direct descendant of Abraham (now renamed Ibrahim) through his son Ishmael (renamed Ismaeel).
In this way, he even managed to mislead King Negos of Ethiopia by instructing his followers to quote an ambiguous and a selected half-quotation from a Qur’anic text which gave a strong impression of affirming the core Christian belief in Christ as the “Word of God” though in a different but concealed or veiled sense. Hence it was (allegedly) reported that King Negos, in hearing this apparent “affirmation”, drew a line in the sand and stated, “the difference between you (Muslims) and us (Christians) is only as wide as this line.” This resulted in the immediate granting of asylum for the early Muslim community refugees in Ethiopia, as they were being strenuously opposed by the Mecceans at that time. This maneuvering was initially handled skilfully with the Ethiopian Christians through showing good intentions while hiding the ulterior ones through partial quotations from the Qur’an.
Several years later Muhammad would emigrate with his followers to Yathrib, change its name to Medina (City of the Prophet), and immediately establish his political leadership of that city—which was composed of two major pagan Arab tribes (and several other minor pagan Arab tribes) that were all Islamised, and three prominent Arab Jewish tribes. For the first two years in Medina he operated under the so-called “Medina Pact” which gave the impression of a pluralistic society under his leadership.
But, at the point that he had become strong militarily, he would confront the first of three Jewish tribes with his claim to have been included in their scriptures as the “Expected One”. When the first tribe replied that they found no such reference, they were threatened and exiled. Subsequently, the second tribe was harshly treated and exiled, but the third tribe was dealt with even more brutally by execution and enslavement.
A year later he dealt with the Jews of Khyber differently, and in a way that would change history. In the aftermath of the defeat or exile of the first three Medina tribes, Muhammad had found it difficult to run the society because of the lack of experience of the nascent Muslim community.
So in Khyber, Muhammad relented on the three earlier choices given to the Medina tribes to either accept him as their prophet, face the sword, or be exiled—and instead implemented a fourth option, one that would provide societal containment for those Jews and Christians who refused, thus retaining their skills and fortunes to the service of Islam, but under severe constraints.
That fourth option would be to submit to the political and legal authority of Islam, whereby they could “keep their religion” within severe regulations. Those regulations had and have a legal term, called, “Dhimmitude”, whereby Jews and Christians were declared to be legally and morally unequal to Muslims, were forced to agree not to proselytise (under penalty of death), and to pay the Jizyah tax in a state of humiliation, among other severe regulations (Surah 9:29).
After dealing with the Jewish presence in Arabia, and after conquering Mecca in a triumphal return as their prophet/ruler, he would deal rather differently with the Christians of Arabia, but the end would be the same. In a famous encounter with the Christian leadership of Najran, and after a three-day theological debate, he would impose the Dhimmitude status upon them as well, setting the precedent for how to deal with conquered peoples as Islam would begin to move out of Arabia into the nearby countries. However, before he died he would abolish the Dhimmitude option in Arabia requiring “no two religions in Arabia”.
NO TWO RELIGIONS IN ARABIA AND THE ISLAMIC “FUTUHAT” EXPANSIONS
The imposition of the directive that only Muslims should reside in the lands of the Arabian Peninsula has been established on the basis of the Sunnah, as illustrated in Hadiths 45:17 and 45:18, and fully implemented later by the 2nd Khalifah, Omar:
Hadith 45:17 (Al-Muwatta Hadith), “ … One of the last things that the messenger of Allah … said was, ‘May Allah fight the Jews and the Christians. They took the graves of their Prophets as places of prostration. Two deens (religions) shall not co-exist in the land of the Arabs.’”
Hadith 45:18 (another Al-Muwatta Hadith), “…Two deens (religions) shall not co-exist in the Arabian Peninsula.”
So what was this all about?
Initially, Muhammad’s message and mission was remedial, but eventually, final and universal:
Surah 7:158, “Say (O Muhammad): ‘O humankind: I am sent to you all as the messenger of Allah’….”
This Surah was used initially to rally the community of the Arabs to Islam, and subsequently to impose it over all humankind, starting with the people and nations of the 7th century through letters of “invitation” to Islam, followed by conquest (called the “Al-Futuhat”, literally “the openings”) and beyond until the present day.
This “Al-Futuhat” concept is expressed in a revealed, thus “divine” Qur’anic term (Surah 48:1, “We (Allah) have opened for you a manifest opening (victory).” ) This doctrine of essentially “sanitized conquest” was imposed by Allah on the Muslim community, granting his authority and mandating the need to forcefully convert, Islamise and subjugate non-Muslims and their territories.
These conquests, though portrayed by Muslim apologists as “defensive” or otherwise in some form of a positive light, were brutally violent. Muslims and their proponents would declare that by invading territories and subjugating the people under Islam, everyone would have the opportunity to “return” to their Fitrah nature, i.e. Islam. In reality it was a strategic Islamization process that would slowly but surely transform these societies and accomplish the spread of Islam. Thus the “Futuhat” was used to justify and explain the initial conquest and subjugation of the peoples in the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, Persia, India and parts of China from 634 AD till 710 AD and beyond.
Then, and up until today, the implementation of the “Al-Futuhat” remains in effect, and has inevitably resulted in the Islamisation of subsequent territories under the doctrines of Jihad, to bring all people “back” to the “Tawheed”, the original doctrine of Islamic Monotheism.