About Mohammed II: Debunking Three Myths

February 4, 2021 Category: Religion


{1 Some versions have “kill” instead of “begrudge” in this account.  In either case, the gist of Abu Bakr’s rhetorical question remains the same.  The answer was: NO.  That is: It was NOT deemed appropriate to attack MoM in response to his castigation of the Qurayshis’ Faith.  (See footnote 4.)  Such forbearance contrasts starkly with MoM’s vindictiveness.  (See footnote 6.)  I address the myth of MoM’s magnanimity when taking over of Mecca here as well.}

{2  There is a peculiar obsession with Abu Jahl even in the Koran.  96:9-19 is often said to pertain to him.}

{3  Note that in Islamic lore, there are claims of Abu Jahl being so vituperative that he beat impertinent slaves; and once even attacked the fabled convert, Sumayyah bint Khayyat.  In other words, even as he is vilified ad nauseam, he is never accused of having persecuted MoM in any way.  More to the point: Even as he is consistently depicted as violent-tempered, never once is this antagonist said to have laid a hand on MoM.  The most hair-raising episode we hear about is comically anti-climactic: One morning, Abu Jahl CONSIDERED bashing MoM over the head with a rock as the latter prayed; then thought better of it…and refrained.  And so it went that MoM was not imperiled even by the meanest of the mean Qurayshis.}

{4  Note that the Quraysh simply wanted to continue practicing what their [fore]fathers had been practicing for generations; and that they were fine with MoM breaking from this tradition…so long as he desisted from berating them for their religion.  He was even permitted to proselytize in the public square…so long as he refrained from openly denouncing their gods.  (Indeed, their gripe with him was not that he was preaching monotheism; it’s that he kept cursing their gods.)  It makes sense, then, that there is a fixation on [fore]fathers throughout the Koran.  Indeed, in surah after surah, the authors of Islam’s holy book exhibit contempt for following the traditions of the audience’s [fore]fathers: 2:170, 5:104, 7:28/70-71, 9:23, 11:62/87/109, 12:40, 14:10, 21:52-54, 26:70-76, 31:21, 34:43, 43:21-25, etc.  Of course, there is nothing inherently wrong with breaking from tradition.  (In fact, Koran 2.0 is ENTIRELY ABOUT departing from what one’s forefathers used to believe.)  Be that as it may, throughout Islam’s holy book there seems to be an ongoing emphasis on jettisoning the precedent of one’s forefathers–an ironic twist, to put it mildly; as such advise would later backfire on anyone in the Muslim world seeking to leave Islam.  The “Recitations”, it is apparent, were not composed for an audience fourteen centuries later.}

{5  Interestingly, after this second entreaty, Abu Talib summoned MoM and asked his nephew why he was doing what he was doing.  MoM’s reply: “I summon them to utter a saying [There is no god but god] by which the Arabians will submit to them and they will rule over the non-Arabians.”}

{6  Even after MoM had ascended to power in Yathrib-cum-Medina, and started routinely attacking Meccan caravans, he was STILL allowed safe entry into Mecca the year after the treaty of Hudaibiya (in 629).  Tellingly, MoM trusted the integrity of the Meccans so much that he entered unarmed; confident he would be safe.  As it turned out, he WAS safe.  No hand was laid upon him, even as reprisal for the violent crimes against the Quraysh he had been committing.  He was a subversive AND an enemy combatant, yet was permitted to perform his pilgrimage to the Kaaba nevertheless.  This is, to put it mildly, quite remarkable.  It is all the more striking to note that, upon seizing the city the following year (in 630), MoM immediately had a slew of people executed for impertinent speech–including Al-Harith ibn al-Talatil, Abd al-Uza ibn Akhtal, Ikrimah ibn Abu al-Hakam, Al-Huwayrith ibn Naketh ibn Wahab, and various singing girls.  (For more on that, see part 1 of my essay on “The History Of Literature”.}

{7  During the first century of Mohammedan hegemony, less than 10% of conquered peoples converted to Islam.  Instead, denizens of conquered territory opted to simply submit to the new regime.  There was rarely forced conversion, as forced conversion would have entailed disingenuous Faith–something that would not have been desirable.  (It was important to be able to identify True Believers from posers.)  So when we talk about the early “Muslim world” outside of Arabia, we are speaking of an Islamic dominion in which most people were not Muslim.  After all, Islam PER SE was not spread by the sword; Islamic DOMINION was spread by the sword.  (Put another way, Islamic FAITH was not imposed; Islamic LAW was imposed.)  Within that dominion, most people had “dhimmi” status.  It was only later that the majority of people within said dominion became Muslim–usually due to the incentive structure in which they found themselves (read: carrots and sticks).  After that, accident of birth took care of the rest.  When it came to officials, conversion was generally done for political reasons; not as the result of theological convictions.  For example, King Parameswara (né Iskandar of Singapura), who founded the city-state of Malacca (on the Malay peninsula), converted to Islam after marrying a Persian princess in 1409 (five years before his death).  The conversion was an obvious political strategy.  Among other things, it rationalized his fashioning himself as a “shah”; thereby rendering him untouchable by the (Majapahit) Javanese from whom he’d originally fled.  He was a shrewd ruler, as he meanwhile paid tribute–literally and metaphorically–to the (decidedly non-Muslim) Ming dynasty, in a gambit for protection against the Siamese.  These maneuvers enabled his city to conduct business unfettered, and thus become a burgeoning mercantile hub.}

{8  Note, for example, the modus operandi of the Persians during their hegemonic campaigns in Late Antiquity.  Then note the modus operandi of the pre-Islamic Mongols in the Middle Ages.  They much preferred integration of conquered peoples to eradication.}

{9  This is also in keeping with 4:90 and 60:8.  “If [your adversaries] leave you alone, and do not wage war against you, and offer you peace, then god does not obligate you to fight them.”  Thus submission is a way out of slaughter.}

{10  Bear in mind, one of the reasons Meccan leaders were initially concerned about MoM’s preachments is that it posed a possible threat to the lucrative pilgrimage business, in which pagan Bedouins came from all over the region to pay tribute to the idols at the Meccan cube [“Kaaba”].  It is likely they suspected that MoM’s proposed brand of monotheism could undermine the incentive for the pilgrimage, and thereby stymie the surrounding economic activity.  Once it was clear that the pilgrimages would continue apace (under the aegis of a new religion), and possibly even be a BOON to commerce, such concerns were surely allayed.  Indeed, the Mohammedan version of the pilgrimage ended up bringing more business than ever before.}

{11  This girl was derided as the “mawlat” [enfranchised girl] of the derided Amr ibn Hashim.  She was killed for insolence (read: for having the audacity to be an empowered woman).  It probably didn’t help that she was named after the mother of Isaac (Abraham’s wife) rather than the mother of Ishmael (Hagar, the Arabian maidservant).}

{12  The slave-girls were killed for having sung irreverent songs about MoM.  That may have occurred at a different time than the Mohammedan seizure of Mecca.  But a clear incident was recorded: Abdullah ibn Khatal was disemboweled as he pled for his life, clinging to the curtains of the Kaaba.}

{13  Note that this was likely not directly after the fabled “Battle of Khaybar” c. early June of 628.  It was likely during a visit to Khaybar in early June 632.  Had the Jewess’ family been killed in said battle, the revenge would have been years in the making; not directly after the battle.  Obviously, a fatal poisoning does not require four years to take effect.}

{14  Note that, throughout history, various other cynosures have experienced machinations against their lives, often via the (repeated) poisoning of their food–notably: Benedict of Nursia.  In the 4th century B.C., the Persian vizier, Bagoi successfully poised TWO kings…and was then HIMSELF poisoned.  When such assassination attempts failed (as they often have; e.g. Alexander the Great), it was seen as confirmation of god’s favor.  No such luck with MoM.  Also note the Rashidun caliph, Ali ibn Abi Talib (who would be fatally poisoned at the beginning of 661) and his grandson, (Shia imam) Ali ibn Husayn Zayn al-Abidin (who would be fatally poisoned in 713).  Clearly, the method was common at the time when it came to the assassination of prominent figures.}

{15  Here, the term “abhar” us used instead of “wateen” (the term used in the Koran).  BOTH words were used at the time to refer to the main artery of the heart (i.e. the “life artery” or “aorta”).  For the predicate “is being cut off”, the same wording is used as was used in the Koran: “ut-qata’a[t]”.}

{16  Alternately rendered: “If you were a prophet, it would not harm you.”}

{17  If MoM spoke of “the angel in charge of the mountains”, he was probably thinking of the Nabataean deity, “Dushara”–tales about whom he likely heard as a child.  So it makes sense that he would have been moved to make such a pronouncement.  Dushara would have been spoken of by Arabian pagans at the time, as she was based on the Sumerian goddess of the (Zagros) mountains, Ninhursag.}

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