Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Aicha

Mono-idolatry (monolatry) or monotheism? (Nov. 6, 2009)

Monotheism is a totally abstract concept that no human was yet able to feel physically loyal to a one, all-encompassing God.

The reality is that people are more inclined to be loyal to a saint, a shrine, or an honored Imam, or apostle.

People have need to use their senses to get connected to a spiritual entity: you cannot expect human to think exclusively of an abstract notion without the intermediary of their senses of seeing a representative picture, of smelling incense, of touching a bust, or of listening to a hymn.

I noticed that my dad, at each pass in front of the Virgin Mary or Mar Charbel (a national Saint), has to touch these pictures in the house with his index, kiss his index, and then sign the cross.  Dad is 85 years old and has refrained attending mass for years.

Mother is also devoted to the Virgin and all the national female saints such as Rafqa; she never misses an occasion to get in the car or a bus going to pay tributes to shrines; she pay money for the Saint that she has Not, so that the church make “good” use of it; obviously, Mar Charbel is in her pantheon too, along with the newly beatified Hardini.  It is interesting that most “miracles” occur at election times.

In all ages, whether a religion claim to be monotheist or polytheist people end up selecting a particular idol to pay allegiance to and write ex-votos to Him in order to be cured, enjoy prosperity, safety to the family, and safe travels.

Indeed, people are loyal idolaters to whom they perceive to be pretty much handy, accessible, and an excellent intermediary to the One God.

For example, in Latin America people are loyal to the Virgin Mary and cannot think of any other Saint to turn to in time of distress; thus, St. Mary of (name a city or a village), or the Virgin of (name a city or a town) and you have hundreds of Virgin Marie, tailored made to a specific locality, ready to come to the rescue.

The Greek Orthodox Church cannot think of more than two female saints to name girls at baptism ceremonies: it must be either Mary or Elizabeth; as for male kids you have an assortment of complicated and long Greek saints with plenty of X and Ch.

In Muslim Egypt and generally in North Africa, you have St. Fatima, Aicha, Ali, Hussein, the Imam of the legal sect, or the shrine of the veneered Sheikh of a locality is paid more attention and visits to any other worshiping figures.

Pictures of Muslim saints are prohibited in public places or in mosques but that do not prevent homes to hang pictures of their preferred saint as relevant to current standards of beauty for both genders.

There is this myth that the Jewish religion is the first to adopt monotheism; it is just a myth.

Ancient civilizations were never monotheists; they all had an overall God, nominally superior to the other demigods but that nobody paid much attention to or prayed to Him or even remembered asking his help in ex-votos.

El was the all-encompassing God in the Middle East as was Allah in the Arabian Peninsula or Zeus for the Greeks but He never generated a dime to tribes that had exclusive rights to his worship.

People converged to more palpable and understandable demigods and cities and towns adopted one of them as symbol and recognition of their trades or power.

In general, more weight was given to the “messengers of a God” (they were written in plural) than to a specific God.

Yahweh (God of thunder and war) was always one of the Gods to the Jews after Moses but might have converged to be the unique God to the Jews in Judea in the second century BC.

Many of Canaan demigods were far more beneficial and interesting than this newly created Yahweh that came into the picture during war periods. Then, Jewish mercenaries were asked to support Baal under the banner of the dusted off Temple and bust of Yahweh.

Salomon worshipped Ashtarout (the Goddess of Sidon of Lebanon) and Baal had many Temples in Jerusalem while Yahweh had only a small one.

One common denominator to all salafist or extremist religious sects (Christian, Jewish, Muslims, or cults) is being totally peeved and obfuscated that the One True God is being sidetracked for substitutes.

Joshua offered the Jews choices of keeping Yahweh as sole God or accepting other demigods.

When the Jews decided to keep exclusively a “tribal” God, then Joshua ordered all strangers’ Gods destroyed.

In ancient time, destroying the bust of a God didn’t mean that he no longer existed but that the local God was to be more efficient to the survival of the tribe or community.

When the Prophet Muhammad entered Mecca without a fight he ordered all the 160 idols destroyed or effaced (pictures) save two: Allah and the Virgin Mary.

Mary was not bestowed virginity at all, but she was veneered as the mother of the latest great prophet Jesus (Issa).

In Islam, idols were no longer Gods and never existed as was the case in ancient cultures. The early Protestants erased pictures and destroyed busts of all Saints except crucified Jesus.

For the Protestants, erasing pictures of Saints didn’t mean that Saints didn’t exist but they were not that worthy to be worshiped and supplant God through interceding.

The most honest monotheists were the “heretic” Christian sects that the Orthodox Christian Church during the Byzantine Empire persecuted relentlessly.

Most of these sects would not even bestow a divine nature to Jesus and Marie was not virgin by any means; no pictures or drawings were permitted for any Saints.

The farthest that these sects could indulge in is to veneer the apostle whom they claimed to have written the “true” Testament they adopted and read in.

I have noticed that centralized churches promote many saints with pictures and busts; it is a tactic to please the people so that it may enjoy total control over their temporal existence.

These centralized churches inherited pagan religions and aided a lot to that widespread propagation of multiple idols for each locality.

Decentralized religions have no urge to promoting idols and pictures such as in Islam: it is the temporal power at every state that appoints clerics, Imams, and sheiks.

I don’t see why all that fuss for monotheism.

If a few tribes still refuse to believe that it is earth rotating around the sun or that earth is flat why then submerge them with an extra abstract notion?

Killing and committing suicide attacks in the name of a God is not an abstract act; this does not mean that human mind cannot reach a level of distortion that far surpasses the mere abstraction of a One God, creator of man and the universe.

Hezbollah to desist spreading myths: Encore; (October 16, 2009)

 

            In a previous post I discussed the two myths: dress codes, and the mixing of State and religious responsibilities. I also stated the reasons for selected Hezbollah for my topic. There are three reasons: first, I need to have a specific target in order to minimize tendencies for generalization; second, Hezbollah is the most powerful movement in Lebanon in number, organization, military training, and in readiness and thus, this important social and political force can either spread havoc or strengthen the independence of Lebanon depending on close dialogue and communication among the Lebanese political parties; and third, because I have a high respect for this organization that saved Lebanon twice from becoming a total non-entity within the last decade. Yes, with Hezbollah I feel that Lebanon is no longer just a State recognized by the UN but has acquired the status of a Nation; a tiny Nation but with the potential of agreeing that we are one people under the law and against all contingencies.

            There is this boring and unsettling tendency at Hezbollah’s leadership to start their speeches with a long litany of the “honored” descendents of the Prophet Muhammad.  I understand that most diseases are inherited but I have not stumbled on studies characterizing intelligence, learning, and wisdom attributed to inherited genes.  Actually, research have demonstrated that offspring of highly intelligent men to be born mostly idiots. 

            The Prophet Muhammad did not die suddenly; he felt terribly sick for eight days and realized that he is to die soon.  The Prophet was fully conscious many times and he said the Morning Prayer before he died in the arms for his beloved and young wife Aicha. If the prophet wanted a close relative to inherit the title of Imam he would have done so; he still had two daughters and two son-in-laws and many close relatives who were Moslems. (Muhammad had four daughters, all married, and two sons; two of the married daughters died before him and his two sons died in infancy before reaching the age of 4).

            Maybe it is time for Hezbollah to desist forcing on people untruths of super great offspring generated by the Prophet. Yes, we must be inclined to pray even more forcefully for them because the odds are that they suffered immensely by the high expectations impelled upon them by ignorant and lazy-minded followers. Maybe it is time to expect the next Mahdi to be born from the common people instead of some “noble” creed.

 

            My fourth worry is this trend of re-writing history to please cultural propaganda of a nascent Islamic regional power such as Iran.  Chiaa have lived in northern Palestine, Lebanon, and northern Syria many centuries before the Turkish Safafid Empire ruled Iran in the 17th century and decided to adopt the Chiaa sect as the Kingdom religion.  The Chiaa had to flee the Arabic Sunni Caliphate Empire for two centuries and suffered frequent persecutions during the Ottoman Empire.

            The Chiaa took roots in India and in the Maghreb in North Africa. From the Maghreb they converged to Egypt and ruled during the Fatimid Dynasty for over a century and enjoyed many converts in Palestine, Lebanon, and Syria when Baghdad’s central power was very weak; the city of Aleppo and its district was a major focal point for the Ismaellia Chiaa. The Chiaa also converged from India to Herrat (west Afghanistan) and to Uzbekistan and Tajikistan before spreading to East Iran and the eastern shores of the Arabic Peninsula.  Consequently, the Chiaa in the Near East are its inhabitants and form an intrinsic part of the fabric of this region: they adopted the same customs and tradition.

            If for political exigencies Hezbollah needs to select leaders who attended religious schools in Qom of Iran, then it does not follow that this short–term need should be the trend.  Hezbollah has no advantage to alienate the main religious center in Al Najaf and then Koufa simply because its members are Near Eastern and not Persians.  It will pay in the medium-term for Hezbollah to re-write the history of the Chiaa in Lebanon and changing their tradition for a far away civilization and taking official sides for this Iranian Ayatollah or that, or this Iraqi Ayatollah or that.  Hezbollah is a resistance movement against any invader to Lebanon because it is Lebanese people and not a branch or an extension or a mercenary force to any regional power. Changing culture and history of the Chiaa in Lebanon can be as dangerous a trend as fomenting civil war.

WOMEN IN ISLAM (Submission to One God)  (April 24, 2009)

 

 

Note 1:  I published 8 posts on Women in Islam and I decided to join them under a comprehensive essay.

 

Note 2: It interesting to differentiate between the original message of the Prophet Muhammad and the subsequent political applications and practises by the various Moslem sects that do not necessarily correspond to the intention of the message.  The fact remains that the official Koran issued by the third Caliphate Othman bin Affan was emasculated, tampered with, and many verses ommitied and burned  to satisfy political interests in the de facto domination of Islam to vast conquered Empires such as Byzantium and Persia by the time the Koran (of Medina) was officially transcribed.

 

Note 3: Parson Warkat bin Nawfal, the patriarch of the Christian-Jew sect of the Epyionites in Mecca and an older relative of Muhammad, taught the Prophet reading, writing, and transcribing the Arab version of  the Old and New Testaments that were written in Aramaic. Parson Warkat also chaperoned Muhammad in contemplation, meditation, and fasting one month a year.

 

Note 4:   In Mecca and for 13 years, Khadija, the first wife of Muhammad and 15 years older than the Prophet and the richest among her clan, aided the Prophet in transcribing revelations and verses during his epileptic fits. In Medina, Aicha bint Abu Bakr, the youngest, educated, and most beloved wife of the Prophet, was almost exclusively in charge of recording the revelations when the Prophet Mohammad had his bouts of seizures. She would cover him with warm blankets and write down the verses until he falls asleep.  Aicha has dedicated her life into gathering, organizing the revelations and meeting with scholars and close friends of the Prophet to keep a complete record.

 

Introduction:

 

It is still applicable that women are in permanent struggle for equal rights in laws and in daily practices.  Even in the most advanced State of Sweden, women are far behind in equal work conditions and pay; they are beaten and raped by their relative on a wide scale. In most religions, women have had to fight for their rights and dues, and their struggle is ongoing. Christian women have gone to the extreme of changing the text of the Bible to make it less “sexist” and more “acceptable” to women.

 

In a previous post “The unpublished Book” I stated that the Prophet Muhammad was crystal clear in his message: making the religion easy, light, acceptable to most sects, and readable by the language of every nation since a prophet is sent to every nation.  The Koran was focused on the value of life and uniting as many sects as possible satisfying common denominators in belief, stories, and myths.  The Prophet Muhammad did not regard with keen eyes the abstract theological concepts that were limiting and restrictive for particular religious sects (these abstract theological structures were the result of urban cultures prevalent in Byzantium and the Persian Empires that generated schisms to the benefit of the few power mongers of the various sacerdotal castes).

 

The social conditions of women in Mecca and Yathreb before Islam were different. In Mecca, a strict patriarchal structure was instituted; the powerful Christian-Jew sects in Mecca had contributed in transmitting the customs and traditions of the Hebraic laws that suited desert life style.  In Yathreb, a six-day journey north by camels, the independent minded women of Yathrib could divorce their husbands by just turning the entrance of their tents around; the husbands settled in and were attached to the wives’ clans.  Muhammad had a hell of a time submitting the women of Yathrib to what his men followers from Mecca were used to. The many wives of the Prophet (numbering 12 and not counting favorites and concubines) were frequent sources of calumnies and hot stories: situations that forced the Prophet to resume his month long of fasting and isolation until rumors calmed down; these meditation periods were used to re-read the Bibles for wisdoms and appropriate regulations. The Prophet had to issue many verses, as Islam gained strength around Medina, to reduce the women of Yathreb into submission and follow the customs of Mecca and obey their husbands and seclude themselves in their homes and wear the veil when out. In the early period of the message, 13 years in Mecca, women and men were no different in the eyes of God and they enjoyed spiritual equality of the sexes.

 

.           For example, in the sourat Al Ahzab (religious sects) it is said “For Muslim men and women, for believing men and women, for devout men and women, for true men and women, for men and women who are patient and constant, for men and women who humble themselves, for men and women who give in charity, for men and women who fast (and deny themselves), for men and women who guard their chastity, and for men and women who engage much in Allah’s praise – for them has Allah prepared forgiveness and great reward”.   In the sourat Al Imran (dedicated to the Virgin Mary and her parents haneh and Joachim) it is read “And their Lord has accepted of them, and answered them: Never shall I suffer to be lost the work of any of you, be he male or female: you are members, one of another…”   In the sourat Al Natal it is read: “Whoever works righteousness, man or woman, and has Faith, verily, to him will We give a new Life, and life that is good and pure, and We will bestow on such their reward according to the best of their action.”

 

1) On Infanticide 

 

In Mecca before Islam, infanticide of born girls was prevalent.  The attitude of the pagan Arabian society (Jahiliyyah as opposed to Islam for historical differentiation) buried female babies alive.  This practice is nowaday widespread in India and in China and millions of girls are aborted every year and newborn girls are left to die of hunger and neglect as boys are born. The populous States are experiencing an epidemic of enfanticide under its strict population control laws that prohibit families to procreate more than one child; as most parents want sons, so girls are abandoned and allowed to die, or are killed, so that the parents may eventually have a boy. The laws for infanticide are lenient; the legal system and the administrators turn blind eyes in cases of girl’s killing. Girls are married as early as 8 of age and they are sold as slaves. Even today, many societies view the birth of a girl as bad news and negative omen.

 

       

        The Qur’an expressively forbids killing babies, whether by infanticide or abortion, on gounds of fear of poverty or losing face in the community.  In sourat al Anaam it is read: “Say: Come, I will rehearse what Allah has (really) prohibited you from: join not anything as equal with Him; be good to your parents; kill not your children on a plea of want – We provide sustenance for you and for them – come not nigh to shameful deeds, whether open or secret; take not life, which Allah has made sacred, except by way of justice and law: thus does He command you, that you may learn wisdom.”  Thus, Islam gives glad tidings to a woman regardless of the gender of the foetus from the time a child is conceived,. The pregnant woman is held in the highest esteem, and her patience in bearing the discomforts of pregnancy is regarded as an act of virtue which brings her closer to Paradise. If the baby is a girl, this opens up further opportunities for the parents to attain Paradise. The Prophet gave the glad tidings of Paradise as the reward for the parents who welcomes a daughter, brings her up properly, provides a sound education and arranges a good marriage for her. In another hadith, it is stated that the fire of Hell will not be permitted to touch one who goes through trials and tribulations because of a daughter, who does not hate her for society’s prejudice but treats her well against all odds.

 

            In the sourat al Takwir it is read ” When the female (infant) is buried alive then the  question is raised- for what crime she was killed?” Consequently, the Koran says that the parents of innocent girls, who were slain for no other reason than that they were female, will be asked on the Day of Judgement for what sin they were slain.  The crime is that of the parents, not of the child. Parents should not think that they are at liberty to do whatever they like with regard to their children.

 

            Not only does the Koran protect the female infant from being murdered by ruthless parents, but it describes girls’ birth as good news, and grants her the right of inheritance from her father, husband and brother, and gives her the right to own property and conduct business transactions independently and in her own right.  In the sourat al Natal it is said: ” When news is brought to one of them, of (the birth of) a female (child), his face darkens and he is filled with inward grief! With shame does he hide himself from his people, because of the news that he has had! Shall he retain it (and suffer contempt), or bury it in the dusts.  Ah! What an evil (choice) they decide on.”

 

2) On Education 

      

Islam has given rights to women in all aspects of life. The spiritual equality of the sexes in Islam extends to equal value quality education for both sexes. The Prophet said: “Seeking knowledge is a duty for every Muslim male and female. Seek knowledge from the cradle to the grave”. In the sourat Fatir it is read: “Those truly fear Allah, among His Servants, who have knowledge.”  Women had to be educated in order to shoulder their rights guaranteed by the message from consent to mariage, to setting the mariage contracts of conditions in writing, to equal inheritance, to managing her household, and to raising her offspring.

 

In sourat Al Nisaa (Women) it is said “Do not covet those things in which Allah has bestowed His gifts more freely on some of you than on others: to men is allotted what they earn and to women what they earn: but ask Allah of His bounty. For Allah has full knowledge of all things.”  Islam bestowed upon women a legal economic entity. A woman could now own, manage, inherit, distribute and sell her own property as she wished and in her own right. Her assets remained hers, and marriage or divorce did not alter her rights. Islam brought these rights to women fourteen hundred years ago, long before equal rights were thought of or campaigned for in other lands.

 

Women’s emergence into the economic arena in the West took hold during the First World War to fill production gaps vacated by the conscripted men for the war effort.  However, it has taken much heartache and a great deal of struggle and striving to bring women anywhere near a position of equal economic status. Even today, the Western woman is economically bound to her husband, who can demand a share from her earnings for ongoing domestic expenses and, in the case of divorce, can claim a share of her savings. In general, the Muslim wife is entitled to be supported by her husband, no matter how rich she may be in her own right; whilst she is a child, she is entitled to be supported by her father and in old age she is entitled to be supported by her children. The Muslim woman is relieved of the burden of having to earn a living, and she is allowed to dispose of her earnings in whatever manner she chooses.

 

In the sourat al Nisaa it is read “From what is left by parents and those nearest related there is a share for men and a share for women, whether the property be small or large -a determinate share.” Islam offers a “ready-made will” that no written will or local tradition can bypass for not allotting women at least half what the males inherit.

 

The reason for men being given a portion twice as much as that given to women if no writen testiminy is left is that men are responsible for taking care of their womenfolk: A man may be required to spend on his mother, sisters or other female relatives. A woman is entitled to dispose of her share of the inheritance as she wishes, and is under no obligation to support anyone, even herself. When these facts are borne in mind, the just and equitable position of Islam becomes reasonable.

 

3) On Polygamy

 

Polygamy in Islam is restricted and may be practiced theoretically only when certain strict conditions are met. It is also the exception rather than the norm in Muslim societies throughout the World. A World Health Organisation census has shown that less than 5% of Muslim men practice polygyny. This is in contrast to other groups in countries such as India, where 15.25% of men from tribal religious groups practise polygyny; 8% of Buddhists, 6.77% of Jains and 6% of Hincus have plural marriages. The percentage of polygynous marriages in India is lowest among Muslims, at 5.7%.

 

The fact that Islam permits a man to have more than one wife has been the cause of much ridicule and misinformation. The fact is that the Mormons, “the pseudo Christian sect in Utah, USA) are still practising polygamy and the blind eye of the State of Utah is functioning though a recent Federal Law has prohibited this practice.

 

Prior to the advent of Islam, women were treated as chattels and objects for the gratification of men; it was the same prejudice of the Jews in Judea and in poor agricultural lands. In the modern world, this practice continues under the guise of frequent divorces, affairs, mistresses and prostitution. Women are left alone to fend for themselves and their children, whilst divorce is so common that there exist groups such as “Single Again”, which cater for people who have been divorced for the second (or subsequent) times.

 

Islam did not abolish polygyny, as it recognised that in some cases, polygyny would be necessary and even preferable to the alternatives of leaving unmarried widows. However, it strictly limited it, to a maximum of four wives at any one time; there are also stringent conditions to be met by a man who wishes to take a second wife.

 

The initial intention of this law was to bring some order to the people of Arabia and neighbouring societies, who had been accustomed to unlimited numbers of wives, and to inaugurate a civil system that would take care of the needs of women; it sought to solve the problem of the existence of large numbers of widows and orphans who were left to fend for themselves after the many raids and warfare among the tribes.

 

 In the sourat Al Nissa it is said: “If you fear that you will not be able to deal justly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two, or three, or four; but if you fear that you will not be able to deal justly (with them), then only one, or (a captive) that your right hands possess. That will be more suitable, to prevent you from doing injustice.”

 

Thus, any man who wishes to take a second wife has to meet the important condition of fair treatment of all his wives; he is commanded to treat wives equally, and anyone who is unable to do so should marry only one wife. Equal treatment includes all social, economical and physical needs. It is very difficult for human beings to be completely fair, a fact which is recognised by the Koran  In Al Nissa you read: “You are never able to be fair and just with even two women, even if it is your ardent desire: but turn not away (from a woman) altogether, so as to leave her (as it were) hanging (in the air)” and  “A man who marries more than one woman and then does not deal justly with them will be resurrected with half his faculties paralysed”.’  In the case of men who had more than four wives when they embraced Islam, such as Ghaylan ibn Umayyah al-Thaqafi, the Prophet asked them to keep four wives and to release the others.       

      

The topic of polygyny cannot be considered complete without some discussion on the Prophet’s Id practice and the historical context in which he and his wives lived. This is a topic which has received much attention from the West, and about which many Muslims are confused.        It should be noted that in seventh-century Arabia, adultery, rape and fornication were the norm. The Prophet remained chaste from the age of 25 when he married Khadijah , who was twice a widower 40 years of age. Their marriage remained harmonious until Khadijah passed away some 25 years later. The Prophet was 50 years of age and started his exile to yathreb (Medina) in 633.

 

The Prophet’s second wife was Sawdah. She and her husband had been among the earliest converts to Islam. They suffered great hardship at the hands of Quraysh(inhabitants of Mecca), so the Prophet had instructed them to migrate to Abyssinia (Ethiopia). There, her husband passed away, and Sawdah suffered much hardship as a widow in a foreign land. The Prophet He knew that he was responsible for the welfare of his followers, so he proposed marriage to Sawdah. This marriage brought relief, respect and status to her, and provided the Prophet with companionship and assistance in raising his children from his marriage to Khadijah. At the time of her marriage to the Pronhet, Sawdah was around 55 vears old.

 

In order to create blood ties and to show his love and respect to his closest Companions who had given up this world for the sake of Islam, the Prophet gave two of his daughters in marriage to Ali and ‘Uthman’; he also accepted in marriage ‘A’ishah and Hafsah , the daughters of Abu Bakr and Umar, respectively. His marriage to these two noble women not only enhanced his close ties with his Companions, but these women were later to offer deep insight into the Prophet’s life. They were responsible for narrating over half of the ahadith which now form the basis of the Islamic code of conduct. ‘A’ishah alone is known to have narrated over two thousand ahadith.

 

Zaynab was a cousin of the Prophet. She had previously been married to Zayd , the freed slave and adopted son of the Prophet Hi. This marriage had been arranged by the Prophet , but the couple were never happy in their marriage and it became apparent that they were not compatible. At the Prophet’s insistence, they had stayed together for several years, but in the end Zayd could not tolerate it any longer, and decided to set Zaynab free from the marriage contract. The fact that an enslave had divorced a woman of the noble Quraysh tribe became the subject of much gossip among the pagans and the weaker members of the Muslim community. Not surprisingly, Zaynab confined herself to her quarters and it fell to the Prophet to relieve her of her misery. He married her, and she was around 38 years of age at the time. This action achieved two ends. One was to demonstrate that Islam makes no distinction between class, race or status, as the Qur’an teaches that the noblest person in the sight of Allah is the one who is most pious. The second was to indicate that adopted sons were not to be counted as blood relatives, as had previously been the custom in Arabia.

 

             It was the custom to have blood ties with the various large tribes for unification purposes. Hence some of the Prophet’s marriages were arranged to establish inter-tribal ties and to further the cause of unity. The Prophet’s marriage to Juwayriyah led her tribe of Banu Mustaliq, who had been among the fiercest enemies of Islam, freeing all their Muslim prisoners. The whole tribe later entered into Islam. Maymunah came from the tribe of Najd, who had murdered the emissaries sent to them by the Prophet. After his marriage to Maymunah, however, their attitude changed and Najd became favourable towards Islam.

 

            All In all, the Prophet had eleven wives, of whom two – Khadijah and Zaynab – passed away in his own lifetime. After the ayah restricting the number of wives to four was revealed, he contracted no further marriages, but his nine remaining wives were regarded as “mothers of the faithful” and as no other man would be permitted to marry them if he divorced them he kept all his wives on the grounds of compassion.

 

With the exception of ‘A’ishah, all of his wives were widows or divorcees. His marriages were all for political reasons or were contracted in order to set an example of compassion, as in the cases of Zaynab and Sawdah. His polygynous marriage all took place rather late in his life, from the age of 55. The prophet Muhammad was in a position of great political power to be choosy but he marry widowers and older women – a sure indication of his upright moral character and desire to set the highest example to his followers.

 

4) On Marriage

       

Mariage is encouraged in Islam at an early age.  This tradition is widespread in underdeveloped countries regardless of religions.  Islam considers sexuality to be a natural part of life, which is to be channeled into a healthy marriage life to avoid exploitation of women through prostitution, pornography, and rape.

 

The Prophet Muhammad advised Muslims: “Whoever is able to marry should marry; that institution will help the Moslem lower his gaze and guard his modesty”. Islam regards marriage as necessary and has raised it to the level of being a positive virtue and described it as being half the faith.

 

Marriage is a consented contract between two equal parties; neither male nor female should be forced into a marriage. Islam clearly states that a marriage contracted without the free consent of the woman is null and void. The Prophet said: “No widow should be married without consulting her, and no virgin should be married without her consent.” Allah said: “When one of you seeks to marry a woman, if he is able to have a look at the one he desires to marry, let him do so”.

 

As an equal partner, the Muslim woman may stipulate conditions in the marriage. The woman may stipulate, prior to marriage, the transfer of divorce power to herself, restricting the husband to one wife only, and clearly defining the conditions of maintenance. Muslim wives have always been allowed and expected to keep their maiden names after marriage.

 

The wife is a spiritual and moral being who is brought into union with a man on the basis of a solemn pledge which Allah is called upon to witness. The Prophet said: “You have seen nothing like marriage for increasing the love of two people”. In sourat Al-Rum (Byzantium) it is read: “And among His Signs is this; that He created mates from among yourselves; that you may dwell in tranquillity with them, and He has put love and mercy between your (hearts): verily in that are Signs for those who reflect.”  In sourat al-Aaraf (customs) it is read: “It is He Who created you from a single person, and made his mate of like nature, in order that he might dwell with her (in love).

 

In Islam, there is no notion of woman being responsible for the “Fall” or of being the first sinner and therefore responsible for all of mankind’s woes. There is no idea of man being created out of superior material and woman out of base matter. Woman is made equal, both men and women are the progeny of Adam, so both have similar souls. In sourat al Shura (counsel) it is read: “(He is) the Creator of the heavens and the earth: He has made for you pairs from among yourselves”.  In sourat al Nissaa (women) it is read: “Mankind! Reverence your Guardian – Lord Who created you from a single Person, created, of like nature, his mate, and from them twain scattered (like seeds) countless men and women – fear Allah, through Whom you demand your mutual (rights).”

 

Islam does not view woman as the instrument of the devil or evil creature. The Koran describes woman as muhsanah (charitable), a fortress against evil, because a good woman helps her husband maintain the path of righteousness.  Muslim men are continually admonished to treat their wives kindly. To those men who oppress their wives then the sourat al Nissaa said: “O you who believe! You are forbidden to inherit women against their will. Nor should you treat them with harshness, that you may take away part of the dower you have given them – except when they have been guilty of open lewdness; on the contrary, live with them on a footing of kindness and equity. If you take a dislike to them it may be that you dislike a thing, and Allah brings about through it a great deal of good.”

 

      

 Men are commanded by Allah to consort with women amicably and honourably. They should refrain from harshness in speaking to and dealing with them. Behaviour that goes against standards of morality and common courtesy is prohibited. Such wicked and brutal conduct is the sign of ignorance (jahidyyah) which Islam came to abolish.

 

The Prophet Muhammad attended to his own personal needs; he helped his wives in the house, he stitched and mended his own clothes, and kept a cheerful climate when he entered the house.  He demonstrated that a man is never too great to clean and look after himself, and he imparted the following advice:  “The best among you is the one who is best to his family, and I am the best among you to his family”.  “The most perfect believers are the best in conduct and the best of you are those who are best to their wives. By assisting your wives in their household duties, you will receive the reward of sadaqah (charity)”   In his famous speech given during his Farewell Pilgrimage, the Prophet reminded the Muslims of the importance of treating women equitably: “O people, fear Allah with regard to women..”

 

            Islam regards men and women as equal partners who should cooperate in making the home, be loyal, considerate and dependent upon one another. They should work together to overcome any problems and obstacles, work together to overcome the shortcomings of each partner, and present a united front to the outside world. They should also provide companionship and comfort to one another.  Islam clearly recognises the equal potential and ability of the sexes, but Allah has created human beings in a manner whereby men and women are better suited for complementary tasks.

    

5) On Motherhood

      

The Prophet indicated that a woman’s status is further enhanced when she becomes a mother. A man once asked him, “Who deserves the best care from me?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Your mother”. The man asked, “Then who?” He replied, “Then your father”.

 

The Koran reads: ‘”Believer must not hate a believing woman; if he dislikes one of her characteristics, he should be pleased with another.  When a woman breast feeds, for every gulp of milk she will receive a reward as if she had granted life to being, and when she weans her child, the angels pat her on the hack saying, ‘Congratulations! All your past sins have been forgiven, now start all over again”:  “O women! Remember that the pious among you will enter Jannah before the pious men”  “During pregnancy until the time of childbirth, and until the end of the suckling period, a woman earns reward similar to that of the person who is guarding the borders of Islam”

    

            The Koran orders are to be kind and just to women, as daughters, sisters, wives and mothers. Muslim who seek to make their womenfolk happy may expect to earn the pleasure of Allah, and pleasing Allah is the key to Paradise.  The sourat Luqman says: “And We have enjoined on man (to be good) to his parents: in travail upon travail did his mother bear him, and in years twain was his weaning: (hear the command), ‘Show gratitude to Me and to your parents: to Me is (your final) Goal.

 

      

Although Islam tells us to respect both parents, the mother is given precedence. For months she bears the burden in her womb, sufferings the trials of pregnancy. After the exertion of labour, she suckles the baby for up to two years. She sacrifices her own comforts for the sake of her child. So a man has to recognise, first, the rights that Allah has over him, and then the rights of his parents, especially the mother; he must worship Allah, and occupy himself in obeying and serving his parents to the best of his ability.

 

Miqdam reported that the Prophet said: “O people, listen: Allah the Most High commands you to treat your mothers well. Allah the Most High commands you to be good to your mothers, and thereafter to your fathers”. Anas reported that the Prophet said: “Paradise lies at the feet of mothers”. What is meant by this is that a believer may attain the pleasure of Allah, and hence Paradise, by pleasing his mother and attending to her needs. Even if one’s mother is not a Muslim, one is obliged to treat her well and take care of her, so long as this does not entail any disobedience to Allah.

 

6) On Divorce

   

The Prophet said: “Divorce is the most hateful of all lawful things in the sight of Allah”. Divorce is allowed as a last resort.  If divorce were forbidden, then animosity and adultery may become rampant. To save individuals and society from the greater evils, divorce has been permitted. However, it is not a step to be taken lightly or hastily. Sincere attempts at reconciliation are to be made first and – as in the case of marriage – the rights and wellfare of women are to be upheld.

 

Imam al Ghazzali (b.1058 CE) who is honoured with the title of Hujjat al Islam ‘The Proof of Islam’ states, the greatest care should be taken to avoid divorce, for, though divorce is permitted, yet Allah disapproves of it. If divorce becomes essential then the woman should be divorced kindly, not through anger or contempt, and not without a valid reason. After divorce a man should give his former wife a present and not announce to others any of her shortcomings.

 

The Koran advises a couple who are facing difficulties in their marriage to appoint arbiters.  In sourat al Nissaa it is read:” If you fear a breach between them twain, appoint (two) arbiters, one from his family and the other from hers; if they wish for peace, Allah will cause their reconciliation…But if they disagree (and must part), Allah will provide abundance for all from His All-Reaching bounty.”

 

In order to dissolve a marriage, it is essential to pronounce a declaration of “talaq”. There are three types of talaq (divorce) that are practiced among Muslims.

First, talaq ahssan – (the preferable type of divorce): After issuing one pronouncement of divorce, the couple wait for the ‘iddah (waiting period, which consists of three menstrual cycles of the wife, usually three months). During this time, all possible attempts at reconciliation should be made. The husband may take his wife back at any time during the ‘iddah period. During the period of iddah the man must oblige to either keep the woman in the same home or at least furnish her with a comfortable apartment, which is easily accessible to him. Further, the man must provide for her as if no divorce has taken place. At the end of the iddah or waiting period if reconciliation has failed then the marriage is broken. In sourat al-Talaq it is read: “And fear Allah, your Lord: and turn them not out of their houses, nor shall they (themselves) leave, except in case they are guilty of some open lewdness, those are limits set by Allah: and any who transgresses the limits of Allah, does verily wrong his (own) soul: you know not if perchance Allah will bring about thereafter some new situation.”

            Second, talaq hassan – is a divorce where a man pronounces talaq to his wife in three consecutive state of purity. Third, talaq bid’i where the husband issues three pronouncements of divorce at one time. According to the majority of jurists, this talaq is valid but it is against the spirit of the Shari’ah and so the man is an offender in the eyes of the law.  The last Talaq bid’i is considered a serious act against the Islamic teachings. The second Caliphate Umar, a close companion of the Prophet, used to whip the husband who pronounced divorce thrice at once and in the same sitting.

 

The sourat al-Baqarah (virginity) it is read: ” When you divorce women, and they fulfil the term of their (‘Iddah), either take them back on equitable terms or set them free on equitable terms; but do not take them back to injure them, (or) to take undue advantage; if any one does that, he wrongs his own soul. Do not treat Allah’s Signs as a jest, but solemnly rehearse Allah’s favours on you, and the fact that He sent down to you the Book and Wisdom, for your instruction. And fear Allah, and know that Allah is well-acquainted with all things.”

 

             Islam treads the middle ground in the divorce concept, and safeguards the rights of women. It neither prohibits divorce, thereby imprisoning women, nor does it regard divorce as an insignificant decision. The right to divorce is not restricted to the husband. The woman may also seek a dissolution of the marriage by means of a process known as faskh, whereby she applies to the Qadi (Judge) for an annulment of the marriage. The wife may seek faskh in several cases, including: apostasy (renunciation of Islam) by the husband; lack of equality of status (kafi’ah); lack of compatibility; spoiling of marriage (fasad); incurable impotence on the part of the husband and if the husband ill treats the woman (nushuz). The above cases present valid grounds for a woman to seek divorce from her husband. If the couple come to a mutual agreement for separation and get divorced then this is called khul.  In sourat al Nissaa it is read: “If the wife fears cruelty or desertion on her husband’s part, there is no blame on them if they arrange an amicable settlement between themselves; and such settlement is best…”

 

               Islam has decreed justice for both sexes in the case of divorce. Although the act of divorce is disliked, it is permitted for the sake of weak human souls who cannot always find comfort and solace in the marriage relationship. This is mainly due to lower tolerance levels, high expectations in others and needless desires.

 

7) On Modesty

 

 

Modesty, in the broadest sense, means humility, restraint in manner and conduct, avoiding excess and presenting an unpretentious appearance. In sourat al Nur (light) it is read: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments”

 

            Abdullah ibn Mass’ud reported, “I asked the Messenger of Allah , ‘What is the greatest sin?’ He replied, ‘To set up rivals with Allah by worshipping others although He alone has created you’. I asked, ‘What next?’ He said, ‘To kill your child lest it should share your food’. I asked, ‘What next?’ He said, ‘To commit adultery with the wife of your neighbour’ (zina)”  The Koran warns in sourat al Israa “Nor come nigh to adultery: for it is a shameful (deed) and an evil, opening the road (to other evils)”.

 

The first step on the road to zina is sight. It is only after a person has had a glance that his desire are inflamed. The believing men and women are restricted from gazing at one another, as this is the gateway to greater sin. The Prophet said: “the zina of the legs is walking towards an unlawful act, the zina of the hands is touching and patting, and the zina of the eyes is casting passionate “lances at those who are forbidden to you”

 

It is the second glance which is punishable. The Prophet advised Ali “O Ali, do not allow your first glance to be followed by a second, because the first glance is permitted for you but the second is not”.  And “Let no male stranger sit in privacy with a female stranger, for the third among them is Satan”‘. And “Do not go to the houses of women whose husbands are absent”.

 

            There are exceptions to this prohibition on looking at members of the opposite sex. In the case of medical examinations or treatment, deciding on a marriage partner, recording evidence or carrying out criminal investigations, the rulings are relaxed somewhat, but proper conduct and modesty must still be adhered to.

            Appearing modestly in public does not correspond to prudism.  Erotism has always been encouraged in Arab traditions and Islam had to frequently turn a blind eye on erotic literatures because initiation to sexuality was transmitted early on for both genders.  Moslem theologians discussed freely on erotical matters, and most open was the most sought after in religious doctrines.  Sexsuality was taught in Mosques as part of education.  You may refer to “The garden of Lovers” by Ibn Qayyim al Jawziyya, or “The Perfumed Garden” by Nafzawi, or the various sexual positions by Tifachi.

In fact, Youssef Seddik claimed that Islam was a counter-revolution to the absolute independence of women in Arabia.  Women were the matriach in that tribal society and their effronteries would have surprised today’s feminists.  For example, during the yearly pilgrimage celebration in Mecca women would erect tents and receive lovers.  The next year, the woman would select one of her lovers to be her child’s father.

            A husband who realized that his wife’s passion for him waned would search for another male that might intice the desires of his mate.  During the month long fasting season sexual intercourse was prohibited then quickly rescinded.  By emulating the modesty of the wives of the Prophet the women communities learned new customs that religion could not supplant.

 

8) On Dress Codes

 

            Practically, the free mixing of men and women from the time they become sexually aware to the time they are no longer sexually active is prohibited. Muslims are required to dress modestly and conceal their private parts (awrah).  In the case of men awrah extends from the navel to the knee; in the case of women awrah includes the whole body except the face, hands and (according to some Hanafi scholars) feet. Muslims should wear clothes that are loose fitting, thick (non-transparent) and simple (not ostentatious or gaudy).

 

In sourat al Nur it is read: “And say to the believing women that they should lower their gaze and guard their modesty; that they should not display their beauty and ornaments except what (must ordinarily) appear thereof; that they should draw their veils over their bosoms and not display their beauty except to their husbands, their fathers, their husbands’ fathers, their sons, their husbands’ sons, their brothers or their brothers’ sons, or their sisters’ sons, or their women, or the slaves whom their right hands possess, or male servants free of physical needs, or small children who have no sense of the shame of sex; and that they should not strike their feet in order to draw attention to their hidden ornaments. And O Believers! Turn all together towards Allah, that you may attain Bliss.” In sourat al Ahzab (sects) it is said: “O Prophet! Tell your wives and daughters, and the believing women, that they should cast their outer garments over their persons (when abroad): that is most convenient, that they should be known (as such) and not molested. And Allah is Oft Forgiving, Most Merciful.

 

Umm Salamah reported that she and Maymunah (who were both wives of the Prophet ) were with the Prophet when the blind son of Umm Maktumcame to speak with him. The Prophet told his wives to observe hijab in front of the visitor Umm Salamah said, “O Messenger of Allah, he is a blind man and will not see us”. The Prophet said, “He may be blind but you are not, and do you not see him”? The Prophet issued a warning: “Those women who appear naked even though they are wearing clothes, who allure and are allured by others, and who walk in a provocative manner, will never enter Paradise, or even smell its fragrance”.

 

Since antiquity, noble women wore the veil to be distinguished from the working women; the veil was a symbol of ranking because the sun did not alter the freshness of the face since whitness of the skin was very praised.  In Europe, women used to have a veil attached to their hats and they would lower the veil when outside their homes. 

In Mecca, the wives and girls of the rich traders wore the veil when out of their homes.  In Yathreb or Medina women were practically running a martriarchal system and thus, were mostly woking women.  Whe the Prophet Muhamad had to flee to Medina his folowers from Mecca were subjected to a cultural shock.  The Prophet had to be biased toward his followers because they were the backbone of his power.  Gradually but steadily the tradition and customs in Medina were altered. The Prophet took advantage of golden opportunities. After the inevitable rumors and flapps over his many wives behaviors the Prophet edicted that his wives would wear veil when on the streets and be accompanied by relatives.  The society followed the fashion of the famous.

 

The “Chador” and the dress codes of totally covering the body in Saudi Arabia, Iran, Afghanistan, and where extra-conservative Moslem sects are predominant are not dictated by the Koran.  They are simply patriarchal political acts meant to humiliate women and relegate them to non-individual class.  The Moslem clerics would like you to understand that the main aim of hijab is to allow Muslim women to enjoy the ability to express their personality and their intellect independently of men’s whims and desires.  It would be interesting to get the opinion of the concerned women on that concept.

 

Note 5: Aicha, the most beloved wife of the Prophet, saved her copies very jealously until the third Caliphate Othman bin Affan ordered the archive to be handed over to him. Aicha didn’t trust Othman and she kept copies of all her documents.  At the time, only rich people could afford to write down documents because they were recorded on special leather in the Arab Peninsula. Thus, rich educated people had the task of transcribing the verses for better retention, memorizations, and an act of devotion.

 

Note 6: By the time Othman decided to issue an official Book for Islam (The Koran of Medina) most of the Byzantium and Sassanide Empires were conquered; Egypt was part of the Arab Moslem Empire. The formal or official Book had to take these political realities into accounts, realities of victors and vanquished.  The Caliphate Othman sorted out the verses and selected what suited the political interest of the new Islamic Empire; many verses were burned and disappeared, others were tampered with such as adding “nassara” (Christian) after Jews though the sentence would break the rime (sajaa).  Othman arranged verses by order of length and the gathered book was considered the official Koran. For example, the shortest revelations or verses are the first chronologically and represent the message of Islam in the first 13 years (The Koran of Mecca) before the relocation to Medina or Yathreb in 633.  The longest verses came afterward and dealt mostly with civil management, daily routine, penal codes, and organization of the converts to Islam.

Islam: After the Prophet Muhammad (Part 4, February 2, 2009)

 

When the Prophet Mohamad died Omar would not believe that the Prophet could die and threatened to kill anyone who says so; then Abu Bakr (instructed by his daughter Aicha) told the congregation “Moslems, those among you who adore Mohammad, Mohammad is dead.  Those who adore God, God is alive”.

Ali was to wash the body and arrange for the funeral. The Companions elected Abu Bakr Caliph in the absence of Ali who was the closest member in the prophet’s “House”. Abu Bakr reminded the Moslems what the Prophet told him once: “All prophets were buried at the place of their death”; and thus Mohammad was buried in Aicha’s bedroom.  Aicha replaced the bed on top of the burying ground and continued sleeping there.

Abu Bakr would not distribute the Prophet’s inheritance to anyone of his wives or family members because Mohammad has told him that prophets’ belonging went to charities.  Fatima died 6 months later as Mohammad has predicted. Under Abu Bakr, Aicha, aided by Zayd ibn Thabit, got the huge responsibility of gathering and collecting all the parchments and written verses and the early oral verses of the Koran and then sorting them, verifying their authenticity, correcting and compiling them. Aichi was not twenty years old.  Abu Bakr died within two years and was also buried in Aicha’s bedroom next to the Prophet.  At the time of Abu Bakr’s death, Khaled ibn Al Walid had vanquished the Byzantine Emperor at Yarmuk and was advancing toward Damascus.

Omar was selected by Abu Bakr to be the next Caliph. Omar extended Islam to Persia by a victory in Qadissiya and toward Egypt.  Omar was assassinated by a Christian slave while praying in the Mosque in Medina; Omar also asked permission of Aicha to be buried in her bedroom.  By then, Aicha was the ultimate interpreter of the Koran and had issued 2,210 Hadiths and was the expert in women’s legal right or “Fiqh Al Nissaa”.

Omar appointed a Council of five Companions from the tribes of Kuraich to elect the next Caliph.  Othman ibn Affan was selected and Aicha had misgivings on how he might manipulate the masses of documents collected on the verses of Islam.  Omar left the documents with his daughter Afsa to hand over to the next Caliph.

Othman ended up exercising nepotism and appointing relatives as governors and civil servants in high offices and he built a palace and lived luxuriously with 500 serfs maintaining the palace and organizing the feasts.  The new Caliph destroyed the documents related to the Koran that he didn’t like and Aicha came out of her house carrying the sandals and shirts and hair of the prophet and shouted at the caliph: “The Prophet’s belongings had not had time to desintegrate and you started to turn your back on his teachings”. Aicha had a copy of all the documents and she rewrote her version of the Koran.

A large dissatisfied mob of Moslems, who were manipulated by extremists in Basra (Iraq), marched on Medina. Aicha had premonition that the arriving mob is bad news and got permission from Othman to leave for pilgrimage with the Prophet’s harem.  The mob entered the palace of Othman, burned it asunder, and stabbed and beat the Caliph to death. 

Ali was elected Caliph but refrained to revenge the murder of the Caliph Othman as a priority case. This lukewarm behavior prompted Aicha to action and she started delivering speeches in Mecca to the effect that the punishment of the leaders of assassins should be carried out first thing first.  Her brother-in-law Zobair and another Companion Talhat excited Aicha to leading a contingent of 3,000 fighters to Basra.

Ali was on his way to Damascus to fight Moawiya, the governor of Syria, and stopped at Kufa to recruit more fighters and had to challenge Aicha before resuming his campaign.  Aicha, Zobair and Talhat managed to recruit an army of 30,000 men against Ali’s army of 20,000 soldiers.  The battle of the “Camel”, the first among the Moslems, left 15,000 victims among the Moslem fighters which affected Aicha for the remainder of her life. Talhat and Zobair died in the battle.

Aicha was riding in a palanquin, all curtains shut close, and she kept exhorting her army to fight. Ali ordered his officer to cut the hands of the camel guides so that the camel could be moved from the center of the battle field; other guides took the relay and 72 camel guides left theirs hands on the rope before the camel’s hamstrings were cut and was brought down; the symbol of “The Mother of the Believer” finally relinquished its effect on the troops.

Ali permitted Aicha to return to her home in Medina and she was escorted as a Queen. One of Moawiya’s delegates told Aicha that they wished she died in the battle so that the allies of Moawiya would have had an excellent excuse to fight Ali.

Aicha spent the remaining of her life in her house, receiving scholars and students who regarded her as the main resource for correct interpretations of the religious verses and taking notes of her experiences. Aicha was the only virgin in the harem that the Prophet married; whatever she knew of love making was the invention and initiation of Muhammad.  A specific revelation forbade Muhammad’s wives to remarry; they were to remain in their homes and to be covered completely and wear the “nikab” on their face when stepping outside their doors or meeting males.

The effects of the assassination of Othman didn’t end up there.  Muawiya raised the same reason of avenging Othman to engage Ali in a terrible battle at Seffine in Syria: the bloodied shirt of Othman hanging in the Mosque of Madina demanded retribution and the Arabs coined the dictum “the Shirt of Othman” to convey the meaning that the reason offered is but an excuse in the power struggle.   There were no victors in the battle of Seffine.  A large contingent of Ali’s army dissented because Ali agreed to arbitrate; these dissenters were labeled Al Khawarej and were led by Abdulah ibn Wahab (the current Saudi Monarchy is of the Wahhabi sect in affiliation). The Khawarej went on assassination rampage against the leading followers of both Ali and Muawiya. 

The Khawarej failed to assassinate Muawiya but killed Ali in Kufa.  Ali refused to name anyone to succeed him as Caliph and said to his followers that he would not disagree with anyone they select; Aicha was to say “this is typical Ali’s ambiguity” as she forecasted the worst to the unity of the “Umma” or Nation of Islam.  Ali was the most qualified to be the Imam of Islam but since there was yet no separation between the political and religious functions then Ali had to seek power as Caliph.  Ali lacked the political acumens and the qualities of a political leader because he was constantly plagued with ambiguities as a result of his vast religious knowledge and his apprehension to err in his decisions. Scissions developed during his short five years reign

Muawiya was elected Caliph in Damascus; the power became hereditary. Muawiya sent assassins to eliminate any potential leaders closely related to the Prophet. Aicha lived to experience the death of many of her male family members.  Hassan, the son of Ali, was assassinated by his wife wearing a poisoned dress.  Moawiya then slaughtered Hassan’s wife to cover up his cooperation.  The successors of Muawiya were known as the Ummayad dynasty. The most powerful tribe of Kuraich reigned in Damascus for over a century. The Abbaseed (The house of Abbass, the Uncles of Muhammad) succeeded in taking power in Baghdad for two centuries.  During and after the Abbasseed dynasty the Central Asian converted Sunni tribes dominated the political and religious landscape for over ten centuries.  The Shi’aa sect (the followers of Ali’s second son Hussein) emerged as a counterpart to the Sunni sect representing the legitimate Moslems.

Islam: Triumphal return to Mecca (Part 3, February 1, 2009)

Mohammad had a dream while sleeping with Aicha that he shaved his head and performed the pilgrimage to Al Kaaba (Black Stone) in Mecca.  Aicha encouraged him and Muhammad left Medina with 700 unarmed men to Mecca with his wise and matured wife Um Salama instead of Aicha.  The favorite camel of Muhammad named Qaswa parked in Hudaybiya, close to Mecca, and would not move any further. Qaswa was the same camel that selected the location for the Prophet’s house and the Mosque in Yathreb.  The Kuraichi’s tribes sent delegations and they reached a ten-year non-belligerence treaty with a promise that Muhammad would be permitted pilgrimage next year. 

Although Muhammad was not allowed to enter Mecca, he wanted to perform the rites in Hudaybiya but the Companions refused. Um Salama then encouraged Muhammad to perform the sacred rituals and shaved Muhammad’s head and he slaughtered his sacrificial camel; then the believers hurried to follow suit and the party returned to Medina sanctified.

 

Mohammad conquered the fortified Jewish town of Khibar, North West of Madina in the year 630.  The lands were turned over to Mohammad and his closest Companions and the Jews agreed to relinquish their treasures and to cultivate the land as serfs for 50% on the return for their subsistence.  Um Salama escorted the Prophet in this raid and recounted to the harem that a Jewish girl roasted a lamb for Muhammad that was poisoned; when asked why she poisoned the lamb she replied: “You killed my father, brother, and husband. If you are a King then good riddance; if you are a Prophet then you must discover the plot.”  The girl was not punished for the rational that she will spread her conviction that Mohammad is indeed a prophet for discovering that the food was poisoned. 

Mohammad married Safiya, a Jewish beauty and of high grace from Khaibar who was married to a brute of a husband that died during the battle. Um Salama said that Mohammad liked his new wife very much: he didn’t wait the customary 40 days grievance and married her on the way back to Medina and spent four whole days and nights with Safiya.  With virgins, the husbands spend 7 whole days and nights!  Aicha thought that Um Salama could have spared her so much anxiety.

 

Mohammad married Um Habiba, the daughter of Abu Suffyan, his arch enemy of Kuraich; she was one of the first Moslem converts to flee to Ethiopia after the Kuraich persecutions.  Muhammad married Maria, a Coptic slave sent as gift by Egypt’s Christian Governor. Maria became immediately the concubine of the Prophet until she converted to Islam and he spent most of his time with Maria, raising a revolt within his harem. Maria gave Muhammad a male son called Ibrahim who also died at age of two as his first son Qassem with Khadija,

Aicha took a definite advantage over the remaining wives. Prominent dignitaries who wanted to offer the Prophet gifts learned that the best moments were when Muhammad was with Aicha.  Aicha thus enjoyed the best fabrics and gifts and the other wives revolted again wanting fair distribution of the gifts.  Mohammad told Um Salama that his revelations descend when he is with Aicha, but the revolt went on and the Prophet decided to retreat from his harem for a whole month, sending fear and frustration in the community of the believers.  After a month, Mohammad revealed a message placing men as superior to women and admonishing wives to obey their husband, and permitting husbands to punish their wives if they disobeyed.  Mohammad re-conquered his authority in the harem; wives had to pay the price of this revolt for centuries after.

In 630 or the 8th year of Mohammad emigration to Yathreb, the Prophet assembled ten thousand fighters for his pilgrimage to the Kaaba and entered Mecca and destroyed the pagan Gods and became the uncontested leader of all the tribes in the Arabia peninsula.  The prophet’s arch enemy Abu Suffian converted to Islam before the troops of the Moslems entered Mecca.  The famous Hind, wife of Abu Sufian, reluctantly converted to Islam. Hind is the woman who opened the chest of Muhammad’s uncle Hamza in the Battle of Ohud; she ate raw Hamza’s liver in order to avenge her father’s death in the battle of Badr; Hamza had killed Hind’s father in a singular fight before the battle of Bard and had also killed her two “masked” younger brothers ten years ago in Mecca. Hind secluded herself in one room for the duration of two years.

The 360 idols were destroyed and the prophet kept the same old worshiping ceremony at the Black Stone with different connotations to the meanings in the procession.  The Persian Salman had fled Yathrib incognito back to Mecca.  Salman was the official scribe to Muhammad who got suspicious with the increased rate of rules issued every day to organize and manage the lives of the Moslem followers.  Salman had started experimenting and tampering with the verses recited to him by the Prophet and then he realized that Muhammad was about to find him out. 

The poet Al Aasha took refuge in the famous whorehouse called the “Curtain House” or Hijab for over two years.  The Prophet had taken the suggestion of Abu Sufian not to close the Curtain House right away because the conversions of the citizens of Mecca were at best skin-deep. The poet Al Aasha had suggested to the Matron of the House that each one of the 12 whores emulate one of the Prophet’s wives in name and in historical incarnation.  Business was brisk and the 12 whores then got the crazy idea of asking the blinding poet to marry them all as the Prophet did. 

 

Mohammad married Maymouna, a relative of both tribes of Abi Taleb and Hashim to the fainting and shock of the harem.  A revelation descended that the messenger is allowed all the women he desires.  Besides his nine wives, Muhammad had two concubines, Maria and Rihana, and uncounted numbers of women who wanted to offer themselves to him to gain Paradise.  Once, Fatima told the harem that her husband Ali wanted to take another wife and she intervened with the Prophet and Ali refrained to carry out his desires.  Aicha was beside herself to learn that Fatima, the plain woman and not as educated as she, could enjoy one husband and generate four offspring, two of them males.  Aicha realized that she could not get pregnant with all her gained expertise.

    The Prophet’s adoptive son Zaid was killed at a battle in the north against the Byzantium Empire. Muhammad organized an army of 30,000 fighters in the year 631, recruited from all over Arabia and marched to Tabuk, a city within the Syrian borders, to avenge the death of his adoptive son Zaid; he took Aicha with him on this campaign.  The Governor of Syria didn’t deign to challenge the Prophet for a battle. Muhammad returned to Medina after securing many treaties with the neighboring tribes and oasis in Syria.  The whole of Arabia was converting to Islam.

Ibrahim, the son of Mohammad from Maria and aged 18 months, died.  The Prophet cried and lamented, a behavior which was not the custom of the male believers. The Prophet went on pilgrimage to Mecca the next year with 30,000 pilgrims and the entire harem went this time.  Mohammad gave a speech alluding that it might be his last pilgrimage. The prophet closed the Curtain House.  The whore girls were incarcerated.  For 12 days, the former polemist Al Aasha would show up in front of the prison and recite wonderful and touching love odes to each one of his wives.  The guards finally realized that the names corresponded to the Prophet’s wives and the poet was taken prisoner. The girls were stoned to death. 

During the trial, the public would not believe Al Aasha’s story and thought that he was jesting which aggravated the Prophet’s mood who said “In the old days you mocked the Recitation; then too these people enjoyed your mockery.  Now you succeed in bringing the worst out of the people” Before being decapitated Al Aasha said to Muhammad “Whores and writers Muhammad; we are the people you can’t forgive.”  The Prophet replied “Writers and whores, I see no difference here.” (Extracted from Salman Rushdi’s manuscript)

When the Prophet Muhammad died Hind wore all her jewelry and ordered a sumptuous banquet and invited the citizens of Mecca.  No one shared the banquet with her, not even her husband.  Hind said “I cannot change the course of history but revenge is so sweet!”

Shortly after his return to Medina Muhammad suffered from terrible headaches; he asked Abu Bakr to preach in his place when he was bed ridden.  Muhammad was mortally sick for at least a month and he knew his days were counted because Angel Gabriel gave him a choice between this world and the Other World and the Prophet opted for the Other World.  Muhammad had time to think about the succession of power and the appropriate processes but no revelations were forthcoming.  The Prophet dies on June 8 in the year 632.  The prophet Muhammad was 63 years old.

The tribal spirit was to dominate the political landscape, the same spirit that Muhammad intended to re-direct toward a Unique God and unite the “Umma”.  The Arab and Moslem World were tribal in structure and ended up with a caste system when the newly converted Central Asian tribes overpowered the Kuraich tribal rights for leadership.

The remaining direct blood family of the Prophet consisted of his two grandsons Hassan and Hussein, and his two grand daughters from his daughter Fatima and her husband Ali (his nephew). The prophets three other daughters Zainab, Rukaya, and Oum Kulthum had died; I have no information so far if they left any offspring.

Islam: Legislating in Medina (Part 2, February 1, 2009)

Note: This essay is mainly a historical account of Islam during the Prophet Muhammad life; it does not intend to delve into any religious belief system since I am not a theologian and don’t want to be. The essay is of four parts: Genesis, Legislating in Medina, return to Mecca, and successors of the Prophet.

We are picking up the story at the time the Prophet Muhammad had to flee Mecca; he was about 54 of age.

In the previous 13 years of proselytizing, the Prophet Muhammad’s fundamental message was almost identical to a particular Jewish-Christian sect based in Mecca: One of Muhammad’s uncle was the Patriarch. 

Given the various Christian sects at the time and even today (including Protestantism, Calvinists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Catholics, Orthodox and on) it is very probable for a Christian theologian, after serious analysis, to classify Islam into one of the Christian sect categories.  Islam of the early period was a synthesis or one of the coherent monolithic belief systems.

 

Mohamamad ibn Abdullah ibn Hachim was an orphan brought up by his uncle Abi Taled,  who was the father of Ali.  Ali would became the fourth Caliph. Mohammad was not illiterate as the Muslems would disseminate.

Khadija was widowed twice and hired Mohammad to lead her caravans to Damascus.  Khadija was almost 7 years older than Mohammad when she asked him to marry her and gave him a son Al Qasem who died at age of 2 and four daughters Zainab, Rukaya, Oum Kulthum, and Fatima.  

Two of Mohamad’s daughters were repudiated by their husbands because they refused to be married to girls who converted to Islam. Muhammad had adopted Zaid ibn Haritha, aged 12, who was Khadija’s slave. Zaid later became Muhammad’s personal messenger to his 8 formal wives after each battle. Zaid was very learned and translated and interpreted the Jewish Books to Mohammad and was devoted to his adoptive father.

Khadija was the first person to believe in Mohammad prophesies and for 13 years protected him from the mockeries and sarcasms of the inhabitants of Mecca and cared for him during his fits of epilepsies when Archangel Gabriel used to appear to him. Mohamamad had to marry Sawda (Black) after Khadija died because he needed an experienced woman to run and maintain the household.  Sawda was widowed to an Islam convert who fled to Ethiopia from the Kuraich tribes’ persecution.

At the death of Khadija at 70, Mohammad realized that he won’t be protected anymore from certain death.  After foiling an assassination attempt on his life Muhammad fled Mecca to Yathreb (Medina) in the year 622 in company of the influential convert Abu Bakr

It took Muhammad and Abu Bakr almost four months to arrive at Yathreb, a mere six days travel in normal time, to avoid the head hunters of the tribes of Kuraich.  Most of the Prophet’s followers had preceded him to Yathreb and welcomed him as a hero.

The Moslem emigrants in Yathreb were suffering from miseries. First, they were not used to the humid climate and the existing marshes and many died of the malaria fever.  Second, the emigrants could not find suitable employments and had to accept temporary jobs at the Ansar (supporter) tribes and Jewish households and farms.  Consequently, the emigrants had to revert to what the tribes did when they were hungry and penniless. 

They decided to raid a major caravan coming from Damascus that was lead by Abu Suffyan, a most powerful person in the Ummaya clan. The caravan was to stop at an oasis called Badr.  The Moslems won the battle of Badr, their first.

Sawda’s father and brother were killed in the battle of Badr fighting against the Moslems. Sawda was greatly grieved and lambasted the prisoners parked in front her house and told them that they should have fought instead of being taken prisoners. Mohammad repudiated her for a while until she asked forgiveness and she opted not to have intercourse with him as the tradition regulated Mohammad’s permutation nights among his wives.

 Muhamamad married Aicha (Abu Bakr’s youngest daughter) in Yathreb; she was then ten years old.  Abu Bakr was one of the first to convert to Islam and was Mohammad’s closest Companion and guide, and later became the first Calif.  Aicha had a vast memory and was well educated to read and write and she was the person who transposed most of the verbal messages into written verses during the revelations.

 The Jewish tribes in Yathreb (later called Medina) were apprehensive of the growing power of the new Moslem community and started scheming to clipp its wings. Mohammad encircled the fortified castle of the Jewish tribe Banu Qaynoqa because the tribe decided to break the treaty with Mohammad rather than pay the ransom for a murdered Moslem emigrant.  The Jewish tribe capitulated when it realized that the succor from the Arab clan of Banu Khazraj was not forthcoming.  The clan of Bany Khazraj was one of the clans in Yathreb that invited Muhammad to settle in it and thus its members were called Ansar (supporters).  

Muhammad had set his mind to beheading all the males of the defeated Banu Qaynoqa tribe as the revelation dictated but the chief of the tribe of Khazraj prevented him saying: “I am a man who fears the reversal of circumstances” The Jewish clan of Banu Qaynoqa were allowed to leave the city and it settled in the Jewish town of Khaibar, around 20 miles north west of Yathreb.

 The Kuraish tribe of Mecca wanted revenge for the battle of Badr. The Moslems lost the battle of Ohud. The forces of Kuraich did not pursue their objective to entering Medina and retreated to Mecca.  Khaled Ibn Al Waleed was leading the cavalery of Kuraich at Ohud; after conversion, Khaled would defeat the Byzantium Empire in Yarmouk.  The Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir had secretly supported Kuraich in the battle of Ohud.  Muhammad directed his angst against this Jewish tribe and ordered it to leave Medina; the eye witness accounts related that the citizens in Medina never saw a leaving caravan as opulent, rich and luxurious in their lives. 

It is after the battle of Ohud that Muhammad reversed his instructions: the Moslems were to pray toward the Black Stone in Mecca instead of Jerusalem.

This was a political decision meant to send the clear message to the Moslems that the focus in to be on Mecca, and first on how to conquer Mecca

Muhamamad married Hind, a recent widow of the convert Abu Salama who was mortally injured during the battle of Ohud.  Hind or Um Salama was about thirty of age and had many children and declined to marry Abu Bakr, Omar and even Muhammad.  Muhammad asked her hand a second time and promised to care for her many offspring.

 Othman Ibn Affan, later the third Caliph and husband of Muhammad’s daughter Rukaya, ran away during the lost battle of Ohud and had vacated a strategic position held by the archers.  After Rukaya died, Muhamad offered Othman his other daughter Um Kulthum as wife because he needed Othman’s clan on his side. Omar Ibn Khattab, later the second Caliph, wanted Othman to marry Afsa, his widowed daughter, but Othman declined the request repeatedly.

Consequently, Mohamamad married Afsa aged 18 because he needed Omar’s total loyalty.  Aicha, the beloved wife of the prophet, was crestfallen and suffered her first jealousy attacks. Kuraich returned the next season with a fresh attack as the Moslem community was gaining new alliances. Muhammad repulsed the attack by following the suggestion of Salmane the Persian convert. Salmane supervised the digging of a large and deep trench around Madina that the cavalry could not jump over.  A violent wind followed by a torrential rain convinced the Kuraichi armies to retreat.  Then, Mohammad surrounded the hold up of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah for 25 days because they were tacitly allied to Kuraich.  The Prophet beheaded 700 of the male captives and dumped their bodies in a large ditch and ordered Ali (his nephew) and Zobayr (the husband of Aicha’s sister Asmat) to perform the executions.

After this mass cruel beheading, the troops of Muhammad had easier tasks convincing the neighboring tribes to join Islam and they frequently plundered the caravans arriving from Damascus and Alexandria. Mohammad asked the hand of Rihana, a Jewish captive girl, to marry him but she declined. After she converted, Mohammad asked her hand again and she preferred to remain slave than marry someone with several wives; Rihana became Muhammad’s concubine.

Zainab, one of the daughters of Mohammad, was married to Aboul-Aas whom she loved so much that she preferred to stay with him in Mecca; Aboul-Aas fought against Mohammad at the battle of Badr and was made prisoner and later decided to convert in order to keep Zainab. 

.Mohamamad married Zainab, the daughter of the clan leader of Bani Assad, who was widowed and 30 years of age. Zainab died three months after her wedding. Mohammad then married Zainab bint Jahsh, a great beauty and the former wife of Zaid ibn Haritha, Muhammad’s adoptive son. 

Zaid had to separate from his wife because she welcomed Muhammad almost nude “to entice him and throw trouble in his heart”.  Zainab then harassed Muhammad reminding him that she separated from Zaid because of him.  The Koran was very strict on the top number of only four wives for the believers if they could afford equitability among the wives.  This time Muhammad received a message from Gabriel telling him that Zainab is an offer from God that cannot be rejected.  The aggrieved Aicha interjected that God has a tendency to accord his Messenger all his desires.

  Aicha joined a raid against the Harith tribe; she lost her favorite collar that the Prophet had offered her during their wedding. The Moslem fighters were utterly upset for wasting precious time searching for the collar because the time for prayer was close and they were far from the nearest oasis. Mohammad had to receive a message allowing ablution with sand when water is not available:  This most important revelation allowed the Moslem armies to expand their raids far in the deserts. Mohammad married Juwayriah, the daughter of the chief clan of Harith. The Harith tribe and their allies converted to Islam.

  Aicha lost the same collar a second time and was left behind while she was searching for it.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, found Aicha alone and returned her to the camp.  Rumors spread saying that, while the sixty years old prophet is resuming his mania of marrying far more than the four allowed by the Koran, his younger wives are cheating on him.  Aicha fell dangerously sick and was moved to her folks’ domicile and Mohammad didn’t pay her a visit for 28 days because he started to believe the rumors.  When Muhammad finally decided to see Aicha the Angel Gabriel had showed up and revealed to the Prophet that Aicha was innocent. Um Roumane told Aicha to welcome the Prophet and Aicha retorted: “By God I will not!  I will praise but God who finally decided to declare me innocent

17 revelations were dedicated to these awful circumstances; calumny was revealed a crime as dangerous as adultery and specific penalties prescribed.  Mistah (a cousin of Aicha), Hassan ibn Thabit (the poet of Islam), and Hanneh bint Jahsh (the sister of one of the Prophet’s wives) were flogged 100 times for their crimes of calumny without having four witnesses for their accusations.  Aicha regained her position as the most favored “Um al Mu’mineen” (Mother of the believers).  

Since then, the wives of the prophet were asked to wear the veil when going out and to stay in their residences unless accompanied.  The independent minded women of Yathrib could divorce their husbands by just turning their tents around; the custom in Medina was for the husbands to settle in the wives’ clans, contrary to the customs in Mecca. 

The prophet had to issue many verses to reduce the women of Medina into submission and follow the customs of Mecca and obey their husbands and seclude themselves in their homes and wear the veil when out.  

Entering Mecca was not a problem: In order to tame Mecca it was imperative to emulate the customs and traditions of the “noble peopl”e in Mecca, and women were to pay the price for this political decision.

Muhammad and the new Moslem immigrants had a hell of a time submitting the women of Yathrib.

“Aicha la bien-aime du Prophet” by Genevieve Chauvel, (November 19, 2007)

I decided to review “Aicha, the most beloved to the Prophet” for the chronicles of the active life of the Prophet Mohammad, and the specific circumstances that revealed the messages from Archangel Gabriel.  Aicha lived to be 67 of age and experienced Islam since she was born, and she died as Islam was splitting into schisms.

Aicha was born in 616 in Mecca and she was redheaded like her maternal grandmother.  Her father Abu Bakr, later the first Caliph, spared her life because Khadija, the wife of Mohammad, played a part in this difficult and life threatening birth.

Mohammad ibn Abdullah ibn Hachim was an orphan brought up by his uncle Abi Taled, the father of Ali. The father of Muhammad died before his birth and his mother passed away as Muhammad was only 6 of age.  Ali was to be the fourth Caliph.

(Islam would like us to believe that Mohammad was illiterate to exaggerate his divine message, but I beg to differ. Read link in note #4).   The wealthy trader Khadija hired Mohammad to lead her caravans to Damascus.  Khadija was almost twenty years older than Mohammad when she asked him to marry her; she was widowed twice and Muhammad was 25 year-old.  Khadija gave  him a son Al Qasem, who died at age two, and four daughters.

Khadija was the first person to believe in Mohammad prophesies and for 11 years protected him from the mockeries and sarcasms of the inhabitants of Mecca and cared for him during his fits of epilepsy when Archangel Gabriel used to appear to him. Two of Mohammad’s daughters were repudiated by their husbands because they refused to be married to girls who converted to Islam.  Fatima, the youngest one, married Ali, Mohammad’s nephew, and gave Mohammad two grand boys, Hassan and Hussein and two granddaughters.  Zainab, one of the daughters of Mohammad, was married to Aboul-As whom she loved so much that she preferred to stay with him in Mecca; Aboul-As fought against Mohammad at the battle of Badr and was made prisoner and later decided to convert in order to keep Zainab.

Rukaya was married to Uthman ibn Affan, later the third Caliph, and when she died, Mohammad married his daughter Oum Kulthum to Uthman because he needed his clan on his side.  Uthman ran away during the lost battle of Ohud and had vacated a strategic position held by the archers. Mohammad adopted Zaid ibn Haritha who was Khadija’s slave at the age of twelve and he used him to be his personal messenger to his wives after each battle.  Zaid was very learned and translated and interpreted the Jewish Books to Mohammad and was devoted to his adoptive father.

Mohammad married Sawda (Black) after Khadija died because he needed an experienced woman to run and maintain the household.  Sawda was widowed to a convert who fled to Ethiopia from the Quraichi tribes’ persecution.

After the death of Khadija, Mohammad realized that he won’t be protected anymore from certain death; he fled Mecca to Yathreb in the year 622 after foiling an assassination attempt on his life.  It took him and Abu Bakr almost four months to arrive at Yathreb, a six days travel, to avoid the head hunters of the tribes of Quraich.  Most of the Prophet’s followers had preceded him to Yathreb and welcomed him as a hero.

Mohammad married Aicha in Yathred when she was ten years old.  Abu Bakr was the first adult male to convert to Islam and he was Mohammad’s closest Companion and guide.  Aicha was 8-years old when Mohammad officially asked her hand and married her at age ten. The mother of Aicha, Oum Roumane, almost died when giving birth to Aicha and Khadija was called upon to deliver her and Mohammad saw Gabriel at the same time he was contemplating to commit suicide by throwing himself off a cliff because of the miserable life that Gabriel forced upon him.  After the death of Khadija, Mohammad saw Aicha three times in his dreams, as a baby wrapped in green blanket and the third time it was Gabriel who removed the blanket for Muhammad to recognize the face of baby Aicha, and ordered to obey the request of Gabriel to take her as wife.  Aicha had a vast memory and was educated to read and write and she was the person who transposed the verbal messages into written verses during the revelations.

The Moslem emigrants in Yathreb were suffering from miseries. First, they were not used to the humid climate and the marshes: Many died of the malaria fever.  Aicha almost died as she arrived in Yathreb.  Second, the emigrants could not find suitable employments and had to accept temporary jobs at the Jewish households and farms.  Consequently, the emigrants had to revert to what the tribes did when they were hungry and penniless.  They decided to raid a major caravan coming from Damascus and lead by Abu Suffyan; the caravan was to stop at an oasis called Badr but Abu Sufyan got wind of the raid and diverted its route and sent for troops from Mecca.  The Moslems won the battle of Badr, their first.

Sawda’s father and brother were killed in the battle of Badr fighting against the Moslems.  Sawda was greatly grieved and lambasted the prisoners parked in front her house and told them that they should have fought instead of being taken prisoners. Mohammad repudiated her for a while until she asked forgiveness and she opted not to have intercourse with him as the tradition regulated Mohammad nights among his wives.

Mohammad encircled the fortified castle of the Jewish tribe Banu Qaynoqa because the tribe decided to break the treaty with Mohammad rather than pay the ransom for a murdered emigrant.  The tribe capitulated when it realized the succor from Banu Khazraj was not forthcoming.  Muhammad had set his mind to beheading all the males of the defeated Banu Qaynoqa tribe as the revelation dictated but the chief of the Ansar (supporters) tribe of Khazraj prevented him saying: “I am a man who fears the reversal of circumstances” The Banu Qaynoqa were allowed to leave the city and it settled in the Jewish town of Khaibar, around 20 miles north west of Yathreb.

Mohamamad married Afsa, the widowed daughter of Omar ibn Khattab, the second Caliph because he needed his total loyalty.  She was eighteen. Actually, Omar insisted on Uthman to marry Afsa but he declined the request repeatedly. Muhamad had set his mind to marry his second daughter Um Kulthum to Uthman to secure the Ummaya powerful clan.  Aicha was crest fallen and suffered her first jealousy attacks.

The Moslems lost the battle of Ohud but the forces of Quraich did not pursue their objective to entering Medina and retreated to Mecca.  Muhammad directed his angst against the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir that secretly supported Quraich.  He ordered this Jewish tribe to leave Medina; the eye witness accounts related that the citizens in Medina never saw a caravan as opulent, rich and luxurious in their lives.

Mohammad married Zainab, the daughter of the clan leader of Bani Assad, who was widowed and 30 years of age. Zainab died three months after her wedding.

Mohammad married Hind, daughter of Abi Ummayah, a recent widow of Abu Salama who was mortally injured during the battle of Ohud, the first defeat of the Moslems against the tribe of Quraich and their allies outside the walls of Yathreb and now called Medina.  Hind or Um Salama was about thirty of age and had many children and declined to marry Abu Bakr and Omar and even Mohammad.  Muhammad asked her hand a second time and promised to care for her many offspring.

Mohammad married Zainab bint Jahsh, a cousin thirty of years of age and of great beauty.  Zainab was the wife of his adoptive son Zaid ibn Haritha who separated from her when she welcomed Mohammad almost nude to entice him and throw trouble in his heart.  She roamed after Mohammad reminding him that she separated because of him.  The Koran was very strict on the number of only four wives for the believers but Mohammad received a message from Gabriel telling him that Zainab is an offer from God that cannot be rejected.  The aggrieved Aicha interjected that God has a tendency to accord his Messenger all his desires.

Mohammad repulsed a fresh attack by Quraich on Medina by following the suggestion of Salame the Persian; Salame supervised the digging of a large and deep trench around Madina that the cavalry could not jump over.  A violent wind followed by a torrential rain convinced the Quraichi’s armies to retreat.  Then, Mohammad surrounded the hold up of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayzah for 25 days because they were tacitly allied to Quraich.  The Prophet beheaded 700 of the male captives and dumped their bodies in a large hole and ordered Ali and Zobayr (the husband of Aicha’s sister Asmat) to perform the executions.

Mohammad asked the hand of Rihana, a Jewish captive girl, to marry him but she declined. After she converted, Mohammad asked her hand again and she preferred to remain slave than marry someone with several wives but she became his concubine. Since this mass cruel beheading, troops of Mohammad had easier tasks convincing the neighboring tribes to join Islam and plundering the caravans arriving from Damascus or Alexandria.

Mohammad married Juwayriah, the daughter of the chief clan of Harith, which his last raid brought her as captive.  The Harith tribe and their allies convert to Islam.  Aicha joined that raid and lost her favorite collar that the Prophet had offered her during their wedding; Mohammad had to receive a message allowing ablution with sand when water is not available: the fighters were utterly upset for wasting precious time searching for the collar and the time for prayer was close and they were far from the nearest oasis.  This revelation allowed the Moslem armies to expand its raids in the desert.

A turning point was reached when Aicha lost her favorite collar that her mother Em Rumana gave her for her wedding.  The story goes that Muhammad took Aicha on an expedition.  Aicha lost her collar as the troop were heading to the next water well and the caravan was very short on water for the ablution before prayer.  Aicha insisted on finding the collar and a verse was handed down that sand can be used for purification in dire moments.  On the way back from the expedition, Aicha stepped away from the troop for bodily relief.  As she reached the caravan, she realized that she dropped this loose collar again.  Aicha went back to search for the collar and the troop started without her.  Aicha would recount that she was so light that the attendants didn’t realize that she was not in the cabin that was raised over the camel.  Aicha lay down.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, found on the second, confident that the troops will retrace their path searching for her as they reached the camp.  Safwan, a young and handsome convert, a little behind the caravan, found Aicha and mounted her on his horse.

Later, rumors spread that, while the sixty years old prophet is resuming his mania of marrying far more than the four allowed by the Koran, his younger wives are cheating on him.  Aicha fell dangerously sick and was moved to her folks’ domicile and Mohammad didn’t pay her a visit for 28 days because he started to believe the rumors.

When Mohammad finally arrived to see Aicha, the Angel Gabriel showed up and revealed to the Prophet that Aicha was innocent. Um Roumana told Aicha to come foward and thank the Prophet.  Aicha retorted: “By God I will not!  I will praise but God who finally decided to declare me innocent”  Seventeen revelations were dedicated to these awful circumstances; calumny was revealed as a crime as dangerous as adultery and specific penalties prescribed.  Mistah, a cousin of Aicha, Hassan ibn Thabit, the poet of Islam, and Hannah bint Jahsh, the sister of one of the Prophet’s wives, were flogged 100 times for their crimes of calumny without having four witnesses for their accusations.  Aicha regained her position as the most favored “Um al Mu’mineen”.

Mohammad had a dream while sleeping with Aicha that he shaved his head and performed the pilgrimage to Al Kaaba in Mecca.  Aicha encouraged him and Muhammad left Medina with 700 unarmed men to Mecca.  The favorite camel of Muhammad named Qaswa parked in Hudaybiya, close to Mecca, and would not move.  By the way, Qaswa was the camel that selected the location for the Prophet house and the Mosque in Yathreb.

The Quraichi’s tribes sent delegations and they reached a ten-year non-belligerence treaty and promised Muhammad that they would be permitted pilgrimage starting next year.  Although Muhammad was not allowed to enter Mecca, he wanted to perform the rites in Hudaybiya but the Companions refused. Um Salama encouraged Muhammad to perform the sacred rituals and shaved Muhammad’s head and then his slaughtered his sacrificial camel and the believers hurried to follow suit; the party returned to Medina sanctified.

Mohammad married Safiya, a Jewish beauty and of high grace from Khaibar who was married to a brute of a husband that died during the battle of Khaibar. Mohammad had just conquered the fortified Jewish town of Khibar, North West of Madina in the year 630.  The lands were turned over to Mohammad and his closest Companions and the Jews agreed to cultivate the land as serfs for 50% return for their subsistence and relinquished their treasures.

Um Salama escorted the Prophet in this raid and recounted to the harem that a Jewish girl roasted a lamb for Mohammad and then he realized it was poisoned; when asked why she poisoned the lamb she replied: “You killed my father, brother and husband. If you are a King then good riddance; if you are a Prophet then you must discover the plot.”  The girl was not punished for the rational that she will spread her conviction that Mohammad is indeed a prophet.  Un Salama added that Mohammad liked his new wife very much: he didn’t wait the customary 40 days grievance and married her on the way back to Medina and spent four whole days and nights with Safiya.  With virgins, the husbands spend 7 whole days and nights!  Aicha thought that Um Salama could have spared her added anxieties.

Mohammad married Um Habiba, the daughter of Abu Suffyan, his arch enemy of Quraich.  Um Habiba was a recent widow and 40-year old and living in Ethiopia with her husband who converted to Christianity; she was one of the first converts to flee to Ethiopia after the Quraich persecutions.

The governor of Coptic Egypt sent Muhammad gold and fine gifts and two Christian girls as slaves, Maria and Sirine.  Maria became immediately the concubine of the Prophet until she converts to Islam and he spent most of his time with Maria, raising a revolt within his harem.

Aicha took a definite advantage over the remaining wives. Individuals who wanted to offer the Prophet gifts learned that the best moments were when he is with Aicha.  Aicha thus enjoyed the best fabrics and gifts and the other wives revolted again wanting fair distribution of the gifts.  Mohammad told Um Salama that his revelations descend when he is with Aicha, but the revolt went on and the Prophet decided to retreat from his harem for a whole month, sending fear and frustration in the community of the believers.  After a month, Mohammad revealed a message placing men as superior to women and admonishing wives to obey their husband, and permitting husbands to punish their wives if they disobeyed.  Mohammad reconquered his authority in the harem and wives had to pay the price of this revolt for centuries after.

In 630 or the 8th year of Mohammad emigration to Yathreb Prophet assembled ten thousand fighters for his pilgrimage to the Kaaba and entered Mecca and destroyed the pagan Gods and became the uncontested leader of all the tribes in the Arabia peninsula; his arch enemy Abu Suffian converted to Islam before the troops of the Moslems entered Mecca.  The wife of Abu Sufian, Hind, converted to Islam also.  Hind is the famous woman who opened the chest of Hamza in the Battle of Ohud and ate his liver in order to avenge her father in the battle of Badr; Hamza had killed Hind’s father in a singular fight before the battle of Bard.

Mohammad married Maymouna, a relative of both tribes of Abi Taleb and Hashim to the fainting and shock of the harem.  A revelation descended that the messenger is allowed all the women he desires.  Besides his nine wives, Muhammad had two concubines, Maria and Rihana, and uncounted numbers of women who wanted to offer themselves to him to gain Paradise.  Once, Fatima told the harem that her husband Ali wanted to take another wife and she intervened with the Prophet; Aicha was beside herself to learn that this plain woman and not as educated could enjoy one husband and generate four offspring, two of them males.  Aicha realized that she could not get pregnant even after her expertise led to many successful full coital with Muhammad.

Rihana died shortly after as well as Mohammad’s eldest daughter Zainab.  Maria gave Mohammad a male son called Ibrahim and thus, Maria was released from bondage.  The blood family of the Prophet consisted of Ali, Fatima, his two grandsons, his two grand daughters and Ibrahim; his adoptive son Zaid died during a battle in the north against the Byzantium Empire.

Mohammad organized an army of 30,000 fighters in the year 631, recruited from all over Arabia and marched to Tabuk, a city within the Syrian borders, to avenge the death of his adoptive son Zaid; he took Aicha with him on this campaign.  The Governor of Syria didn’t deign to challenge the Prophet and Mohammad returned to Medina after securing many treaties with the neighboring tribes and oasis in Syria.  The whole of Arabia was converting to Islam.

Ibrahim, the son of Mohammad, aged 18 months, dies.  The Prophet cried and lamented, a behavior which was not the custom of the male believers.

The Prophet went on pilgrimage to Mecca the next year with 30,000 pilgrims and the entire harem went this time.  Mohammad gave a speech alluding that it might be his last pilgrimage. Shortly after his return to Medina Muhammad suffered from terrible headaches for a month; he asked Abu Bakr to preach in his place when he was bed ridden.  The Prophet dies on June 8, 632; he was 63 years old.

Omar would not believe that the Prophet could die and threatened anyone who says so; then Abu Bakr told the congregation “Moslems, those among you who adore Mohammad, Mohammad is dead.  Those who adore God, God is living”.

Ali was to wash the body and arrange for the funeral. The Companions elected Abu Bakr Caliph in the absence of Ali who was the closest member in the prophet’s “House”. Abu Bakr reminded the Moslems what the Prophet told him once: “All prophets were buried at the place of their death”; and thus Mohammad was buried in Aicha’s bedroom.  Aicha replaced the bed on top of the burying ground and continued sleeping there.

Abu Bakr would not distribute the Prophet’s inheritance to anyone of his wives or family members because Mohammad has told him that prophets’ belonging went to charities.  Fatima died 6 months later as Mohammad has predicted, aggrieved and desperate.

Under Abu Bakr, Aicha, aided by Zayd ibn Thabit, got the huge responsibility of gathering and collecting all the parchments and written verses and the early oral verses of the Koran and then sorting them, verifying their authenticity, correcting and compiling them. Aichi was not twenty years old.  Abu Bakr died within two years and was also buried in Aicha’s bedroom next to the Prophet.  At the time of his death, Khaled ibn Al Walid had vanquished the Byzantine Emperor at Yarmuk and was advancing toward Damascus.

Omar was selected by Abu Bakr to be the next Caliph. Omar extended Islam to Persia by a victory in Qadissiya and toward Egypt.  Omar was assassinated by a Christian slave while praying in the Mosque in Medina; Omar also asked permission of Aicha to be buried in her bedroom.  By then, Aicha was the ultimate interpreter of the Koran and had issued 2,210 Hadiths and was the expert in women’s legal right or “Fiqh Al Nissa2”.

Omar appointed a Council of five Companions from the tribes of Quraich to elect the next Caliph.  Uthman ibn Affan was selected and Aicha had misgivings on how he might manipulate the masses of documents collected on the verses of Islam.  Omar left the documents with his daughter Afsa to hand over to the next Caliph.

Uthman ended up exercising nepotism and appointing relatives as governors and civil servants in high offices and he built a palace and lived luxuriously with 500 serfs maintaining the palace and organizing the feasts.  The new Caliph destroyed the documents related to the Koran that he didn’t like and Aicha came out of her house carrying the sandals and shirts and hair of the prophet and shouted at the caliph: “The Prophet’s belongings had not had time to deteriorate and you started to turn your back on his teachings”. Aicha had a copy of all the documents and she rewrote her version of the Koran. A large dissatisfied mob of Moslems, who were manipulated by extremists in Basra (Iraq), marched on Medina. Aicha had premonition that the arriving mob is bad news and got permission from Uthman to leave for pilgrimage with the harem.  The mob entered the palace of Uthman burned it asunder and stabbed and beat the Caliph to death.

Ali was elected Caliph but refrained to give the revenge for the murder of the Caliph Uthman as priority; this lukewarm behavior prompted Aicha to action and she started delivering speeches in Meca to the effect that the punishment of the leaders of assassins should be carried out first thing first.  Her brother-in-law Zobair and another Companion Talhat excited Aicha to leading a contingent of 3,000 fighters to Basra.

Ali was on his way to Damascus to fight Moawiya, the governor of Syria, and stopped at Kufa to recruit more fighters and had to challenge Aicha before resuming his campaign.  Aicha, Zobair and Talhat managed to recruit an army of 30,000 men against 20,000 with Ali.  The battle of the “Camel”, the first among the Moslems, left 15,000 victims and injured among the Moslem fighters which affected Aicha for the remainder of her life. Talhat and Zobair died in the battle. Aicha was riding hidden in a palanquin and exhorting her army to fight. Ali ordered his officer to cut the hand of the camel guide so that the camel could be moved from the center of the battle field; guides took the relay and 72 camel guides left theirs hands on the rope before the camel’s hamstrings were cut and was brought down and the symbol of “The Mother of the Believer” finally relinquishing its effect on the troops. Ali permitted Aicha to return to her home in Medina and she was escorted as a Queen. One of Moawiya’s delegates told Aicha that they wished she died in the battle so that the allies of Moawiya would have had an excellent excuse to fight Ali.

Aicha spent the remaining of her life in her house, receiving scholars and students who regarded her as the main resource for correct interpretations of the religious verses and taking notes of her experiences. Aicha was the only virgin in the harem and whatever she knew of love making was the invention and initiation of Muhammad.  A specific revelation forbade Muhammad’s wives to remarry and to remain in their homes and to be covered completely and wear the “nikab” on their face when stepping outside their doors or meeting males.

The effects of the assassination of Uthman didn’t end up there.  Muawiya raised the same reason of avenging Uthman to engage Ali in a terrible battle at Seffine in Syria: the bloodied shirt of Uthman hanging in the Mosque of Madina demanded retribution and the Arabs coined the dictum “the Shirt of Uthman” to convey the meaning that the reason offered is but an excuse for the power struggle.   There were no victors in this battle and a large contingent of Ali’s army dissented because Ali agreed to arbitrage; these dissenters were labeled Al Khawarej and were led by Abdulah ibn Wahab (the actual Saudi Monarchy is Wahabi in affiliation); they went on assassination rampage against the leading followers of both Ali and Muawiya.

The Khawarej failed to assassinate Muawiya but killed Ali in Kufa.  Ali refused to name anyone to succeed him as Caliph and said to his followers that he would not disagree with anyone they select; Aicha was to say “this is typical Ali’s ambiguity” as she forecasted the worst to the unity of the “Umma” or Nation of Islam.

Muawiya was elected Caliph and the power became hereditary and the period is known as the Omayyad (the most powerful tribe of Quraich) reign in Damascus, which lasted for a century before the Abbaseed (The house of Abbass, the Uncle of Muhammad) succeeded in taking power in Baghdad for two centuries.  The Central Asian converted Sunni tribes were to dominate the political and religious landscape for over ten centuries.  Muawiya sent assassins to achieve any potential leaders related to the Prophet and Aicha lived to experience the death of many of her male family members.  Hassan, the son of Ali, was assassinated by his wife wearing a poisoned dress.  Moawiya then slaughtered Hassan’s wife to hide his schemes with her.

Notes:

  1. 1)The Prophet had two sons who died before the age of two.  Ali, his nephew who married his youngest daughter Fatima, was the only male in his “House”.  Muhammad appointed Ali to read the religious messages in meetings where the Prophet could not be present.  Ali and Abu Bakr were the most learned males, among the early Companions, on Islam but Aicha was the best and she was present during many revelations of Archangel Gabriel in her house.
  2. 2)Ali was the most qualified to be the Imam of Islam but since there was yet no separation between the political and religious functions then Ali had to seek power as Caliph.  Ali lacked the political acumen and the qualities of a government leader because he was constantly plagued with ambiguities as a result of his vast religious knowledge and his apprehension to err in his decisions. Schism developed during his short five years reign and the Shi’aa sect (the followers of Ali’s second son Hussein) emerged as a counterpart to the Sunni sect representing the legitimate Moslems.
  3. 3)Muhammad was mortally sick for at least a month and he knew his days were counted because Gabriel gave him a choice between this world and the Other World and the Prophet opted for the Other World.  Muhammad had time to think about the succession of power and the appropriate processes but no revelations were forthcoming.  The tribal spirit was to dominate the political landscape, the same spirit that Muhammad intended to re-direct toward a Unique God and unite the “Umma”.  The Arab and Moslem World were tribal in structure and ended up with a caste system when the Central Asian tribes overpowered the Quraichi tribal rights for leadership.
  4. The Prophet Muhammad was highly literate https://adonis49.wordpress.com/2009/04/08/the-parson-and-the-prophet-book-review/

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March 2021
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