Sunday, 29 September 2013

1 Early Life

(If you think this book has been written to promote a sinister agenda or somehow encourage harm to Muslims, then please go to the end and read the appendix here first.)

Mohammed ibn Abdullah (The Prophet Mohammed) was born in 570AD, in a town called Mecca in what is now called Saudi Arabia. At that time Arabia was not a country, it was an area inhabited by a collection of tribes. 

It was and remains, a hot, dry and inhospitable landscape where people survived herding sheep and goats. Some dates were also cultivated in the North. Blood feuds were not uncommon. These would generally be resolved through the principle of an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Sometimes blood money would be paid to resolve a killing.
Mecca was a holy town and a centre for all different kinds of religions. There was (and still is) a building named the Kabah which held a sacred stone. This is believed to have been a meteorite. There was also a well, whose water was thought to be holy and to have medicinal powers. Tribes from all around Arabia would come to Mecca to worship their various deities.

 There were even a few Christians and Jews living there; it was very multicultural. Mohammed came from the nobility of Mecca who were known as the Quraysh and his clan was known as the Hashim.

 The main God of the Quraysh was Allah who is believed by many to be the Moon God, (which would explain why every Mosque has a crescent moon on top). Many other Gods were also worshipped. Because it was a holy place, fighting was not allowed in Mecca. Violent disputes had to be settled outside of the town.

Mohammed's father died before he was born and his mother died when he was five. He was then raised by his grandfather, until he too died. His uncle, Abu Talib then took over his care. Abu Talib was a powerful member of the Quraysh. He seems to have been a kindly figure who, while he was alive, protected Mohammed and treated him well.

The main business of the Quraysh was religion, though they also made money from trading. When he grew up Mohammed was hired by a wealthy widow named Khadija. She ran a business trading with Syria. Mohammed managed the caravans and did the deals with the Syrians. Syria was a Christian country at that time and far more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than Arabia.

 At that time it was in fact, more sophisticated and cosmopolitan than most of Europe. The Arabs took their alphabet from the Syrian Christians. Writing was however, restricted to business transactions only. 

There were no books written in Arabic at that time. Religious traditions were passed down by word-of-mouth. Christians and Jews were known as the people of the book because they possessed written Scriptures. Mohammed did well as a trader and made a good profit for Khadija. After a while Khadija proposed marriage to him. They had four daughters and two sons together[1]
Because of his background, Mohammed was familiar with many different religions. He was of course very familiar with the rituals of his own clan, the pagan Arabs of Mecca. Many of these pagan rituals would be incorporated into Islam. 

There were also some Jews in Mecca and his wife's cousin was a Christian. Since most religions were not written down, it was not uncommon for people to have different versions of each religion, or even to start their own type of worship.

Important Facts:
To be a Muslim means to accept that Mohammed was the perfect Human Being. His life is the example for all Muslims to follow in every way possible.

 Of course not all Muslims are very successful in this endeavour but the level of devoutness of a Muslim is judged by how closely he follows Mohammed’s example and teachings. This fact is not disputed in Islam. That is why it is so important to know his story. There is even a word to describe Mohammed’s behaviour, which is “Sunnah”

Some people may feel that this book should not be read for moral reasons. Before I go any further I would therefore like to make something very clear. I am a huge fan of religious freedom. People should be allowed to believe what they want and worship in any way they see fit.

 If a group of Christians wants to worship in a weird or unusual way it doesn’t bother me one bit.

If, however those people form a political organization and start trying to influence the way their society is run then I will likely take an interest. If I don’t agree with their political agenda or methods, I assert my right to criticize these activities. 

This is not a religious criticism; it is a political criticism.This book is not overly concerned with religious aspects of Islam. We will not be investigating its religious beliefs or practices too deeply. What I will be commenting on are the political objectives, political agenda and political methods of Islam. 

These are clearly laid down in Islamic Doctrine. How Muslims interact with each other or interact with their chosen Deity is a religious matter. That doesn’t interest me at all. How they interact with non-Muslims, (who they refer to as Kaffirs) is a political matter and does concern me. As this story unfolds you will soon see why.

The original source of most of this material is Ibn Ishaq’s book, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Story of the Prophet of Allah) or just The Sira. Ibn Ishaq is the most revered and trusted Muslim scholar of all time. This work was compiled around 100 years after Mohammed’s death which makes it his oldest surviving biography. It is the absolute definitive biographical account of Mohammed’s life for Islamic scholars.

It was translated into English in 1955 by Professor of Arabic, Alfred Guillaume, under the title The Life of Muhammad with the help of a number of Arab professors. This is still the most widely used English translation for both Muslims and non-Muslims.

This direct translation has been superbly simplified and rearranged, by Bill Warner of the Centre for the Study of Political Islam. He has included material from other well trusted sources. This gives clarity and context to a story which previously took enormous amounts of painstaking study to understand.

The title of his book is Mohammed and the Unbelievers. Most of the quotes used will come from this book (which is referenced back to The Sira by a system of margin numbers contained in the original text).

[1] Only one of his daughters, Fatima survived to adulthood.

(To read the next chapter, click on the link below)
Go to Chapter Two

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