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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.


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