Saturday, September 27, 2014

The Tragedy of Mohammed

Having grown up in the Midwest and the South, I was raised with almost no exposure to or knowledge of Islam. In 2000, my husband and I moved to an apartment complex and were neighbors with a Muslim family. They had a son who was about 12, and he was a nice kid. At any rate, it occurred to us that we knew almost nothing about the religion, and one of the things he and I have in common is an unwillingness to suffer ignorance. So we bought a Koran and read it.

Personally, I believe that no one should be allowed to have an opinion about any religion without reading that religion's holy books. After September 11th, 2001, I heard so many descriptions of Islam and the Koran that were so out of line with anything I had remembered reading, that I went back and read the Koran a second time.

It's an easy read. Like the New Testament, it relies heavily on a basic understanding of the Torah.

I came to the conclusion that there was nothing inherently wrong with Islam, but like any religion, the powers-that-be manipulated the faith for the purpose of manipulating the faithful. For my Midwestern and Southern friends and family, I likened it to what the KKK does with Christianity.

As for the longstanding strife between Islam and Christianity/Judaism, I firmly believe that this is the exact opposite of what Mohammed himself had intended.

For anyone who is not aware of the fundamental conflict between Israel and Islam, it mostly boils down to the fact that the Muslims have built a holy shrine, The Dome of the Rock, on top the Temple Mount (the site of the 2nd Jewish Temple which had been destroyed by Rome). Of course, there is a lot of strife over the surrounding real estate, the Temple Mount is the symbolic incarnation of everything that Christians, Muslims, and Jews have been fighting over in that region.

I had always believed that the historical claim of the Muslims to the Temple Mount was bogus, but that is an opinion that discounts the very real credibility of the metaphorical. Basically, in the Koran and the Hadith, Mohammed visits the "Far Away Holy Masque," in a dream. Based on this, Muslims today claim that this was a miraculous metaphysical journey, and that Mohammed actually visited the site; hence it is now a Muslim holy site.

It should also be noted that the Christians have a basilica in the same area based on the belief that Jesus's tomb is there.

Quick recap before we move on: the First Jewish Temple was built about a thousand years before Jesus ascended into heaven in the same vicinity, and it was about 600 years after Jesus's birth that, in a dream called The Night Journey, Mohammed visits a mosque on the same site and ascends into heaven himself.

But why does all of this happen in the same place over a span of thousands of years?

Jesus was at the Temple because he was a Jew, but why was Mohammed there in The Night Journey?

Through the lens of modern cultural conflicts, it would seem that the Muslims and the Jews have always been enemies, but the original coalition that Mohammed built in Medina included Jewish tribes and pagan Arab tribes. It was this tribalism that Mohammed sought to change. His monotheism was new to the Arab culture, but it was firmly rooted in Judaism and Christianity. So he sought to validate his beliefs by appealing to his monotheistic predecessors and preaching affirmations of Jewish prophets, naming Jesus among them.

The Night Journey tells the tale of Mohammed being transported to Jerusalem, to the Far Away Holy Mosque where he meets the prophets of the past, leads them in prayer, and ascends into Heaven and meets God. I believe it is clear that Mohammed's Night Journey was intended to validate his monotheistic religion, and his ultimate goal was to unite all of the Earth's people in the worship of the one true God.

So let's explore this point-by-point.

First, that it was a mosque which Mohammed visited in Jerusalem. Although it is difficult to accept when looking at examples in modern-day Islam, the mosque was originally intended to be a center for learning that was open to all people of all faiths, not a place a rigid theological indoctrination that excluded people of other faiths from entering. So, Mohammed's vision of a mosque at this site was not a metaphor for supplanting Judaism, but for communing with it.

Second, the fact that he leads the other prophets in prayer. While that image may seem repugnant, that Mohammed is seen as somehow above the other prophets, I think that the scene can also be interpreted in the context of Mohammed unifying his theology with the theologies that came before.

Lastly, that Mohammed meets God. Again, I don't think that this was meant to impart the idea that Mohammed is above the other prophets, but that he is their successor. After all, the other prophets had already spoken to God. This is simply validation that Islam is cut from the same cloth.

This is a difficult point to argue today because the animosity between Judaism and Islam is so entrenched, that it seems as old as the religions themselves.

Actually, nothing could be further from the truth. Muslims and Jews coexisted pretty well, with their common enemy throughout the Middle Ages being the Christians. Furthermore, as Roman-dominated Christianity descended into the Dark Ages after the fall of the Roman Empire, the Islamic Ottoman Empire allowed science, medicine, literacy and even Judaism to flourish while those very things withered and all but died in Western Europe. And it wasn't until later military conquests against the Ottomans that Europe "rediscovered" all of that long-lost luminescent knowledge that would lead their civilization to carry the torch of math and science into a very bright future.

The tragedy of Mohammed is that the very fractured tribalism he wanted to eradicate persists to this day, often in the name of the prophet himself.

Still, I think that the oneness of the global marketplace is something that the prophet himself would likely marvel to see, knowing that it was Islam that kept the light of knowledge alive as the rest of the world dimmed for a moment.

12 comments:

lisa rowell said...

One interesting way that some off the original verses of the Quran were lost is that a follower of Muhammad named Abdollah Sarh would make suggestions to Muhammad about rephrasing, adding to, or subtracting from the Suras. Muhammad often did as Sarh suggested.

Ali Dashti explains what happened:

"Abdollah renounced Islam on the ground that the revelations, if from God, could not be changed at the prompting of a scribe such as he. After his apostasy he went to Mecca and joined the Qorayshites" (Dashti, 23 Years, p. 98).

It is no wonder that when Muhammad conquered Mecca one of the first people he killed was Abdollah, for he knew too much and opened his mouth too often. there your loved Mohammed for ya becarefull reading the Quran lot of it was change around to fit Muhammad for him self not for the people real people of god dont kill he did whats that tell you jesus never killed anyone real god would not send someone down to kill Not only have parts of the Quran been lost, but entire verses and chapters have been added to it.

For example, Ubai had several Suras in his manuscript of the Quran which Uthman omitted from his standardized text so dont take the Quran has end all be all becoz its not

Heather Siladi said...

A lot of points here. Thanks for stopping by!

All religious texts are doctored, it is part and parcel of their very existence. Studying these changes over time, even in oral traditions that are not religious, is a forensic adventure that can often illuminate more about a culture than than the texts themselves.

The modern Bible as we know it was pieced together by the Council of Nicea, which was commissioned by a Roman Emperor who didn't even convert to Christianity until he was on his deathbed.

I am not able to debate about what God would or would not do because I don't believe in God. That said, there are many, many instances in the Torah where God explicitly commanded war, conquest, and actions that today would be considered war crimes.

I do believe that there is a lot information available outside of the Koran and the Hadith to help ascertain what Mohammed's intentions were during his time, and the push for unification over tribalism was clearly one of his primary goals

Jesus, on the other hand, was not a political leader. He had no structured hierarchy through which he rallied large groups of people toward some particular goal. His method of subversion was that of a shepherd, a teacher. This is one reason why Jews do not accept him as the Messiah, who was prophesied to be a great political and military leader.

The march toward modernity necessitated conquest and violence at every stage. That, unfortunately, is part and parcel of progress.

lisa rowell said...

well i understand most are doctored but the Quran is more doctored then most reason why i had to say something about your post was you try to make it look like Quran and Islam all good and great best thing around but you fail to resreach the Quran fist before makeing statment's you did . plus seen you was in the middle east so you going be bias i see this lot people read Quran o this best thing around its awsome sign me up in till they start reading about the Quran they be like o i didnt know that if you take the Quran being all true then sorry to say its not i think Mohammed bad person he kill Abdollah ????but he works for god well we have real bad god then Muhammad overthrew the ruling Jewish elite, confiscated Jewish land, built a theocratic state, and led raids on trading caravans dose that sound like a person god would send to earth ??? he was bent wiping out the jews all he was trying run people so this guy comes up with this Quran puts what he wants in it then say this is word of god ?? really lol During the next few years, most of the peninsula's disparate Arab tribes were conquered, and came to him to ask for alliance and to convert to his religion you dont see any thing wrong with that statement he made people convert to his religion really?? what happan to free will pretty much you had to do what he want or els nice guy he is then make all there women fully cover up make them in to slaves that all they are baby makers and house cleaner awsome system then to top it all off he clams in was a Prophet and the ruler cant be both Prophet is a Prophet that it but that what he Prophet not ment to rule anything this guy shady all the way he was really a dictatorhe doing everything for his own ends not god cant force people to convert to someone religion he did???

lisa rowell said...

Yet Muslims tend to focus solely on the good characteristics of their prophet, and to completely ignore less admirable qualities. We have already seen that Muhammad began robbing caravans after leaving Mecca. As a result,greed soon became one of the primary factors in people’s rapid conversion to Islam. Indeed, Muhammad deliberately used the spoils of war to lure people to Islam. When he was criticized for the way he distributed his newfound wealth, he replied, “Are you disturbed in mind because of the good things of this life by which I win over a people that they may become Muslims while I entrust you to your Islam?”iv

Although Muhammad patiently endured persecution in Mecca, his attitude quickly changed when his numbers grew in Medina. Soon he would tolerate no criticism whatsoever. According to our earliest biographical source, a man named Abu Afak—who was more than a hundred years old—wrote a poem criticizing people for converting to Islam. Muhammad demanded he be killed, and Abu Afak was murdered in his sleep. When a woman named Asma heard that Muslims had killed such an elderly man, she wrote a poem calling for people to take a stand against Islam.Ibn Ishaq relates what happened next:

When the apostle heard what she had said he said, “Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” Umayr bin Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he said, “You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!” When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, “Two goats won’t butt their heads about her,” so Umayr went back to his people.v

Muhammad’s violence was directed towards groups as well. Muhammad once said to his followers, “I will expel the Jews and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula and will not leave any but Muslims.”viThe Jews of Qurayza resisted Muhammad and attempted to form an alliance against him. When the alliance faltered, Muhammad acted quickly. His armies surrounded them and “besieged them for twenty-five nights until they were sore pressed and God cast terror into their hearts.”

Then they surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina. . . . Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. . . . There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900.vii

Every male who had reached puberty was killed. Muhammad divided the women, children, and property among his men (taking a fifth of the spoils for himself).

lisa rowell said...

But things get worse.As the Muslim armies raided town after town, they captured many women, who would often be sold or traded. Yet, since the Muslim men were a long way from their wives, they needed wisdom from Allah to guide them in their treatment of their female captives. It wasn’t long before Muhammad received a revelation allowing the soldiers to rape the women wow great awsome guy he was islam awsome great rape kill whatever you want

Heather Siladi said...

I am not in the Middle East and have no idea why you would think that.

At no point am I advocating for Islam or any religion, as I am an atheist. The points I'm making here are much more nuanced than "good guys" and "bad guys."

Other than that, I'm having a really difficult time deciphering most of what you're saying. Is English your first language?

I am picking up on grammatical inconsistencies which make it apparent that much of what you are posting here has been copied and pasted, which would be fine if it were wrapped in quotation marks and properly attributed to its source.

At any rate, the sort of ideas you are expressing here really don't apply to this post, or any posts on this particular blog, but I do thank you for your time and contribution.

lisa rowell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Siladi said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Heather Siladi said...

Just saw a great quote:

"Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both."
-C.Wright Mills

lisa rowell said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Heather Siladi said...

I'm not one to delete comments, but this just isn't a swearing-in-all-caps kind of a blog.

There are millions of such blogs on the web. Please seek out one of those.

nunya said...

Well I think you handled that with class.