Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, August 16, 2020

Shavuah Tov,

Do You Need to Know More About Islam? Part 2

by Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney

I continue a brief series on certain aspects of Islam. Muslims believe Muhammad to be Allah’s most-important prophet.

VERY BRIEF BIOGRAPHY OF MUHAMMAD: Muhammad ibn Abdullah was born ca AD 570 in Mecca and died in AD 632 in Medina (both located on the Arabian Peninsula).

Nomadic Arabs crossed the mostly barren Arabian desert, eking out a meager livelihood. Most tribes were polytheistic, worshiping their multiple tribal gods and goddesses. Mecca was an important trading and religious center, and it was home to many temples and worship sites where devoted Arabs prayed to the idols of these gods. 

The most famous site was the Kaaba (translation Arabic Kaaba = “cube”).  Arabs claimed the Kaaba was built by Ibrahim (Ibrahim = “Abraham”) and his son Ismail (Ismail = “Ishmael,” Abraham’s son by the concubine Hagar). Meccan Arabs turned to polytheism and idolatry. They worshiped 360 gods and goddesses, one for each day of the 360-day year.  Allah, considered the greatest god and the only one without an idol, was the moon god. Even today, a crescent moon adorns the top of Muslim mosques.

SIDETRACK: The Kaaba is at the center of Islam’s most sacred site in Mecca (in present-day Saudi Arabia). Each year (although mostly canceled in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic), there is an annual pilgrimage (the Hajj) to Mecca. The Hajj is a mandatory, once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage, with certain financial and physical exclusions. (Hajj translation = “to attend a journey”). In the Hajj, millions of devout Muslims march around the Kaaba. END sidelight.

As a teen, Muhammad worked in a caravan and learned the business practices of the day. As a young man, Muhammad was considered to be reputable, being given the nickname of al-Amin (al-Amin = “trustworthy, honest”). 

After Muhammad’s marriage to Khadija and after he embraced Khadija’s interpretation that the voices he was hearing were coming from a good jinn (jinn = “spirit”) – messages he finally concluded as coming from Allah through the angel Gabriel (see following sections) – he began formulating and evangelizing his new religion (Islam). The first Islamic converts were wife Khadija and close friend Abu Bakr. He gathered a small following in Mecca, but he was mostly ignored or mocked.

When Muhammad insisted there was only one god (Allah) and spoke strongly against polytheism, Meccan leaders saw him as a grave threat to the religion of the people and the economy this religion generated for the townspeople. Muhammad’s own tribe, the Quraysh, were even guardians of the Kaaba. 

Wife Khadija’s travelers’ stop stayed busy and profitable, as there was busy caravan travel between the Far East and the Middle East (and, then, to Europe and Africa). Caravans transported silk, spices, jewels, and other valuable goods. Caravan drivers stopped for the evenings at Khadija’s rest stop. There, the caravan drivers would be protected from thieves and they and their beasts of burden would be fed and watered. 

Some caravan drivers were Jews; others were Christians. Muhammad became fascinated with Judaism and Christianity, and felt it was more logical to have one (or even three) deities, rather than the 360 deities in the Arabian pantheon. Elements of Judeo-Christian faith are interwoven into the Islamic holy books, but Muhammad misinterpreted many basic elements of Judeo-Christian faith.

With few responsibilities in his wife’s business, Muhammad had abundant time to ponder religion and visit religious sites. He frequented a cave near Mecca. While there in AD 610, he heard a voice (whom he later identified as the angel Gabriel) say: “Recite in the name of your Lord who creates, creates man from a clot! Recite for your Lord is most generous….” These words begin the Koran’s Surah (Chapter) 96. The Koran was originally recited, as most Arabs were illiterate. Only later were the words written and compiled into a book.

Muhammad increasingly threatened and frightened residents of Mecca. He was forced to flee (AD 622) to Medina, a village 260 miles to the north of Mecca. This act of fleeing marks the beginning of the Islamic calendar. Muhammad was more readily accepted in Medina, and the number of Islamic converts grew.

Of importance to Muslims is an event said to have occurred in AD 621. Muhammad is said to have traveled on the back of a winged baby horse-like, white beast, called Buraq, to “the farthest mosque.” This mosque by tradition has been identified as the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. There, he prayed to Allah. Then, he ascended into the heavens to confer with Allah. The journey to al-Aqsa is called “Isra;” the journey into the heavens is called “Mi’raj.”

SIDELIGHT: Muslim scholars subsequently identified the al-Aqsa Mosque as being located on the present-day Temple Mount (Mount Moriah?) in Jerusalem, although a specific location of “the farthest mosque” is not identified in either the Koran or the Hadith. The al-Aqsa Mosque is considered the third holiest site in Islam. The future Third Jewish Temple must be built on the Temple Mount. Old scholarship suggested the al-Aqsa Mosque must be razed to clear a building site for the Jewish Temple. Of course, this action would lead to war.  Newer scholarship indicates there is room for both the Mosque and the Temple on the Mount, which is exactly what was written centuries ago in the Tanakh. To explain all of this would require a separate RR, which I will try to remember to do in a future RR. Of course, God has known all of the things about which we now fret, including location of the Third Temple (Isaiah 46:9-10): [God said] “Remember the former things of old: for I am God– there is no other. I am God, and there is none like Me declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is yet to come, saying, ‘My purpose will stand, and I will accomplish all that I please..’” END sidelight.

In Medina, Muhammad began assembling an army. As one studies Islam, the contrast between Muhammad and Yeshua becomes obvious. Muhammad was a warrior and advanced Islam by force, whereas Yeshua was a proponent of love and advanced His faith by gentle persuasion through the Ruach ha-Kodesh.

Muhammad advanced Islam by persuasion, guile, and warfare. Within a century of Islam’s beginning, it had advanced into and dominated the Middle East, northern Africa, and parts of Europe. Islam’s advance into Europe was defeated at the Battle of Tours in France in AD 732.

Upon his final return to Medina in AD 632, Muhammad fell ill for several days. He died at the age of 62, and was buried at al-Masjid an-Nabawi (the Mosque of the Prophet), which was one of the first mosques built by Muhammad in Medina.

Muhammad died without a male heir or an appointed successor to the leadership of Islam. Eventually after great struggles, Islam was divided into two major groups– the Sunnis and the Shiites. A brief history of this division may be read at: https://www.history.com/news/sunni-shia-divide-islam-muslim  and elsewhere. These two groups still dominate Islam. Approximately 85 to 90 percent of Muslims are Sunnis; 10 to 15 percent are Shiites; with a small number of other sects.

THE VOICES BEGIN: In AD 610, Muhammad began hearing what he considered divine revelations. At first, he was disturbed by the voices. Eventually, though,  Muhammad believed the revelations came from Allah through the angel Gabriel, whom he learned about from the caravan drivers.

Mohammad shared these revelations with wife Khadija, who was deeply distressed. He suffered from seizures (epilepsy), which sound to me like a grand mal seizure disorder. We now know that that seizures usually result from a small scar on the brain, which causes bursts of abnormal electrical discharges. The consequence of a grand mal seizure can be frightening. To Arabs at that time, they considered loss of consciousness and violent shaking of the limbs during a seizure to be a possession of the body by evil forces, not a medical condition.

Arabs believed in jinns. A jinn was a spirit, which could be good or evil. (Recall the folk tale of Aladdin and the genie in the lamp. The genie– from “jinn” – was a good jinn that granted wishes.) Muhammad initially felt he was hearing voices from evil beings. Although Muhammad treated all of his wives with exceptional kindness, wife Khadija realized the Meccans were afraid of Muhammad, because his epilepsy “proved” he must be possessed by an evil jinn. The reason for seizures was unknown, then, and a grand mal seizure must have been frightening to all observers.

Khadija’s burden became too great for this prominent business woman in Mecca. Muhammad was hearing voices, and these voices were telling him to abandon the gods and goddesses of his fathers. She needed for him to change the story to keep it more palatable to their Meccan neighbors. She convinced Muhammad that he was a good man. He must be mistaken. Such a good man would not hear the voices of evil jinns. He surely was hearing the voices of good jinns. Muhammad agreed. Muhammad learned from the Jewish/ Christian caravan drivers that Gabriel was God’s messenger. (Angel, from the Greek angelos = “messenger”.) He must be hearing from the angel Gabriel, who had delivered a divine message to Miriam (Mary) about the “Prophet” Isa (Yeshua).

QUESTION: Do you think Muhammad was hearing the voice of Jibreel (Gabriel), Shaitan (Satan), or another jinn (spirit) – whether a good jinn or an evil jinn?

From this time forward, the voices Muhammad heard were from “Gabriel” and they were telling him that people must submit to one god (Allah), that they must care for the poor, and there would be a last judgment.

WOMEN IN MUHAMMAD’S LIFE: Muhammad had several wives. He had a good reputation about the way he treated his wives. He was apparently kind and loving to them, even more so than most seventh-century Arabic men treated their wives. Muhammad’s wives are referred to as “Mothers of the Believers.” 

Again, Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, was a rich widow of Mecca (in the Arabian Peninsula– modern Saudi Arabia.) Muhammad stayed married to her in a monogamous relationship for twenty-five years, until she died in AD 619 or 620. They had six children.

After Khadija died, Muhammad had multiple wives and concubines, including:

** Sawda bint Zam’a was a leather tanner. Muhammad lost sexual interest in her, describing her as “fat and slow,” and threatened to divorce her. She persuaded Muhammad to let her stay in the household, with the understanding he would never be required to have sexual contact with her again.

** Aisha bint Abi Bakr was the daughter of Abu Bakr, Muhammad’s best friend and head evangelist of Islam. Muhammad married the six-year-old Aisha, preferring her over her teenaged sister. At six years of age, Aisha was not physically developed enough for sexual intercourse. Muhammad waited until she was nine years old, before consummating the marriage. Aisha became Muhammad’s favorite wife. She contributed greatly to Islamic law and history. Many non-Muslims have criticized this pedophilic marriage. Because Muhammad married a child, child marriage became acceptable in Islam.  

** Hafsa bint Umar was the daughter of one of Muhammad’s wealthy friends. Hafsa was the custodian of the original text of the Koran. 

** Zaynab bint Khuzayma was a widow. Because of her charitable work, she was called “Mother of the Poor.” She died a few months after marriage to Muhammad.

** Hind (Umm Salama) bint Abi Umayya was a widow with four young chidren. She became a valued teacher of Islam. 

** Zaynab bint Jahsh was Muhammad’s daughter-in-law and his blood-related cousin. A very attractive woman who was married to Muhammad’s son, the prophet pressured the son to divorce Zaynab so he could marry her. This marriage violated the Koran, but Allah granted special exceptions that gave Muhammad permission for this marriage.

** Rayhana bint Zayd ibn Amr was a sex slave. Rayhana’s first husband was one of hundreds of Qurayza men whom Muhammad beheaded. All of the wives of these men were pressed into service as sex slaves for the Islamic army. Muhammad chose the most beautiful of the widows (Rayhana) to be his wife.

** Juwayriyah bint Al-Harith, a sex slave, was the daughter of an Arab chief. She was taken prisoner when Muhammad attacked her tribe. Wife Aisha claimed that Juwayriyah was so beautiful that men always fell in love with her at first sight, and Aisha chose her to be a wife for Muhammad.

** Ramlah (Umm Habiba) bint Abi Sufyan was the daughter of a Meccan chief who was defeated by Muhammad.

** Safiyah bint Huyayy, the beautiful daughter of a Jewish chief, was a “trophy wife” for Muhammad. After Muhammad defeated the last Jewish tribe in Arabia, Safiyah was kept in Muhammad’s household as living proof that he had defeated and removed all Jewish tribes from Arabia.

** Mariyah bint Shamoon al-Quptiya, a sex slave, was sent to Muhammad as a gift from the governor of Egypt. Muhammad kept Mariyah as a concubine, even though his other wives were extremely jealous because of her beauty.

** Mulayka bint Kaab, the beautiful daughter of a family defeated by Muhammad when he invaded Mecca, was given to Muhammad to appease him. After marriage, Mulayka learned that Muhammad’s army had killed her father. She demanded a divorce, which was  granted, but she died a few weeks later.

** Fatima al-Aliya bint Zabyan al-Dahhak was the daughter of a minor chief who had converted to Islam. Muhammad divorced her after only a few weeks of marriage because “she peeked at men in the mosque courtyard.” Fatima worked the rest of her life as a dung-collector. She outlived all of Muhammad’s widows. 

** Asma bint Al-Numan was a princess from Yemen whose family hoped the arranged marriage alliance would convince Muhammad not to invade Medina. Muhammad divorced her before consummation of the marriage, after wife Aisha tricked her into reciting the divorce formula.

** Al-Jariya, a domestic slave belonging to wife Zaynab bint Jahsh, presented her to Muhammad as a present. She was an unofficial concubine who was visited by Muhammad at unexpected intervals (that is, she was not on his regular schedule).

** Amra bint Yazid was a Bedouin, whom Muhammad divorced before consummation of the marriage because she had signs/ symptoms of leprosy.

** Tukana al-Quraziya, a sex slave captured from the defeated Qurayza tribe, was selected by Muhammad as one of his personal slaves and another unofficial concubine without a regular turn in Muhammad’s roster.

** I use so much space on Muhammad’s wives and concubines because it gives more insight into Muhammad’s life. Some of these women became most  important in the development of Islam. I have not covered Muhammad’s engagements, broken contracts, and refused proposals. The chiefs of Mecca offered Muhammad “as many wives as you want in marriage,” together with wealth, political power and the services of a competent exorcist, if only he would stop insulting their gods. Muhammad’s affairs of the heart are discussed in: https://wikiislam.net/wiki/List_of_Muhammads_Wives_and_Concubines . 

I will conclude Part 2 at this point. In next Sunday’s RR, I will discuss more about reasons we Believers should know more about Islam. Shalom and Maranatha.