Continued from “Privates of ‘the God’”
Muhammad, after all, came from an exalted family and all along socialized with the nobility of the Meccan tribes. Whatever were his childhood deprivations as an orphan, his marriage to Khadijah brought him recompense when still young. Thus, for over forty years, the chance of his birth shaped his sense of belonging to the higher crusts of society. On the other hand, as the circumstances of his life post-Hijra, forced him into the company of the poor, it can be seen that as the Czar of Medina, Muhammad condescended to descend to the Helpers like the Quraysh of Mecca he was.
If any proof were needed for this proposition, here it is. The inconsiderable loot and ransom collected in the wake of the Battle of Hunan and the siege of Taif, for most part, was gifted away by him to the members of sixteen influential families of Mecca and the four chiefs of other tribes who all embraced Islam by then. Maybe, apart from his desire to please members of his own clan, Muhammad’s magnanimity could no less be the aberration of his exhibitionism. Whatever, this tango of his with the Meccans that the four-thousand Helpers of Medina watched in dismay was not set to the tune of gratitude, was it? Of course, knowing that his move had caused distress, and raised doubts in the minds of his old faithful, Muhammad dealt with them memorably as recorded by Martin Lings thus:
“Men of the Helpers, word hath come to me that ye are deeply moved against me in your souls. Did I not find you erring, and God guided you, poor and God enriched you, enemies each of the other and God reconciled your hearts?” “Yea indeed,” they answered. “God and His Messenger are most bountiful and most gracious.” “Will ye not retort against me?” he said. “How should we retort?” they asked, in some perplexity. “If ye wished,” he answered, “ye might say unto me, and say truthfully, and be believed: ‘Thou didst come unto us discredited, and we credited thee, forlorn and we helped thee, an outcaste and we took thee in, destitute and we comforted thee.’
O Helpers, are ye stirred in your souls about the things of this world whereby I have reconciled men’s hearts that they may submit unto God, when you yourselves I have entrusted unto your Islam? Are ye not well content, O Helpers, that the people take with them their sheep and their camels, and that ye take with you the Messenger of God unto your homes? If all men but the Helpers went one way, and the Helpers another, I would go the way of the Helpers. God have Mercy upon the Helpers, and on their sons, and on their sons’ sons.” They wept until their beards were wet with their tears, and with one voice they said: “We are well content with the Messenger of God as our portion and our lot.”
This episode singularly illustrates the cunning of Muhammad to position his political necessity as human solidarity. After all, he could have surely known which side of the Islamic bread has butter. Deserting the die-hard Musalmans of Medina at that stage would have amounted to jeopardizing the future of Islam which he so painstakingly nurtured. Besides, that memorable speech should have made Muhammad to populism what Goebbels had been to propaganda. Thus, it’s no wonder the despots of the Muslim States follow in their Prophet’s footsteps by giving the poor their Islam, and the rich their goodies, all the while serving their own cause of staying in power.
Nonetheless, Muhammad’s continuance of animal sacrifice, and his countenance in throwing stones at the devil at Mecca, and such other pre-Islamic rituals, should leave one pondering whether his opposition to idolatry was a matter of conviction or a strategy to give a cause of action to Islam. Can’t the origin of the so-called false revelation said to be in praise of Al Lat, Al Uzza and Manat be seen in this background? Maybe, it’s an idea for the Musalmans to see whether or not these vexing as well as perplexing ‘Satanic Verses’, whose authorship Muhammad had denied, are indeed Quranic interpolations. And we have the Quranic challenge to go by for that - “And if ye are in doubt concerning that which We revealed unto our Slave (Muhammad), then produce a surah of the like thereof, and call your witness beside Allah if ye are truthful.” Cannot the other ayats of the Quran that are taken as authentic by the Musalmans be the barometer to settle the issue once and for all?
Be that as it may, it should not be missed that the Quranic tirade is more vehemently directed against the Jews and the Christians than the idolaters. It is relevant to note that there is this tradition of worshipping the supposed relic of Muhammad’s hair at Hazrat-Bal in Kashmir. And the commotion its theft, and the relief its retrieval, occasioned in the Muslim world once, might show that at heart man, even the Musalman, is by nature idolatrous, in spite of his religious conditioning to the contrary. The dargas at which the Musalmans revere their fakirs that dot the landscape of the Indian subcontinent is a pointer to this peculiar side of human nature. Nonetheless, the faithful of Islam wouldn’t admit unlike the Christians of India who insensibly gave up that pretense for too long now.
In spite of his exalted position, power didn’t go to Muhammad’s head for he had too shrewd a mind to allow that happen. But, he seems to have betrayed his sense of power and unrivalled status in subtler ways. For one thing the ninth sura that proclaims the immunity from obligation towards the idolaters is the only one in the Quran, which is without the obligatory recitation –
“In the name of Allah the Beneficent, the Merciful” and for another the proclamation itself was a joint command of Allah and His messenger, “Freedom from obligation (is proclaimed) from Allah and His messenger toward those of the idolaters with whom ye made a treaty.”
“And a proclamation from Allah and His messenger to all men on the day of the Greater Pilgrimage that Allah is free from obligation to the idolaters, and (so is) His messenger. So if ye repent, it will be better for you; but if ye are averse, then know that ye cannot escape Allah. Give tidings (O Muhammad) of a painful doom to those who disbelieve.”
“(How much more seemly) had they been content with that which Allah and His messenger had given them and had said: Allah sufficeth us. Allah will give us of His bounty, (and also) His messenger. Unto Allah we are suppliants.”
Going by the aforesaid, the Quran seems to be indulgent towards Muhammad, having all the while condemning the Christians for ascribing partners to Allah, as can be seen from the following!
“We shall cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve because they ascribe unto Allah partners, for which no warrant hath been revealed. Their habitation is the Fire, and hapless the abode of the wrong-doers.”
However, towards the end, Muhammad felt bold to write to the Roman Emperor, the Persian Prince and the Egyptian King, inviting them to join Islam. While the far off Caesar ignored his call, the Persian ruler tore off the letter, but the Egyptian neighbor felt it was wise to give an evasive reply, however, accompanied with enticing gifts. Thus received Muhammad, mounds of gold with Mariyah, and her equally attractive sister Sirin, the Coptic slave girls, for his dispensation.
As anticipated by the wily neighbor, Muhammad marveled at Mariyah’s charms, and as Abraham did with Hagar, the Egyptian slave girl of Sarah, he readily took her under his amorous wings. It was only time before Mariyah, to Muhammad’s delight, presented him a son, whom he named, again at Gabriel’s behest, Ishmael, as did Abraham before him. It would have seemed then to Muhammad and his followers that the divine wheel turned a full circle, but not quite as the later development proved.
Be that as it may, Muhammad named his first son from Khadijah as Qasim, and of course that was much before the revelations at Mount Hira. And then, the forgotten Abrahamic pedigree of Arabs didn’t get Muhammad’s racial focus either. But, now that Islam was firmly in place in Mecca, and Abraham’s Kabah was rid of the idols, it was but natural that the heir of the Arabic Prophet should bear the name of Ishmael, the progenitor of them all. However, Muhammad’s filial joy ensured a reprieve of peace in the region till death snatched, first his infant son, and shortly thereafter, him as well. With the death of Muhammad, the Islamic sword that Mariyah managed to keep in its sheath was unsheathed, by the plunderers of his followers, on the nations of the neighborhood.
Soon, as Egypt was brought under the Islamic shackles, it was only time before the Islamic straight, but narrow, path was firmly laid in the land that nourished one of the earliest and greatest civilizations of the ancient world. And it was only the beginning of the end of the old world cultures in the adjoining continents. In time, wherever Islam pitched its tent, it was all about sporting a beard and wearing the skull cap. Oh, how Islam made the world poorer we would never know, but the glimpses of what is still extant on the ground and that which preserved in museums would make us sigh.
Some thirteen centuries after Muhammad revived the Abrahamic legacy of the Arabs, Adolf Hitler advocated the theory of Aryan racial superiority in Germany. It’s the strange fate of the Jewish people that they were the victims of both, first that of the ambition of Muhammad and then of the prejudice of the Fuehrer. If the Jewish posturing against Muhammad as an imposter earned them his wrath, his hostility towards idolatry unwittingly put his believers at odds with the Hindus in later centuries.
“This son of yours will be a wild one - free and untamed as a wild ass! He will be against everyone, and everyone will feel the same towards him.”, the prophecy of the Lord’s Angel about Ishmael finally seems to have come true, in as much as the faith of his progeny grew up in time to be a troubled child of the family of the world religions.
Continued to "Perils of History"