When I started this web-site, its purpose was to be a voice
of truth – relying on facts in order to educate both myself and the reader as
to what is right, what is truth, and what is good. It is in this same vein that we continue the
conversation, although the topic will be different. I mentioned last time that I believe that we
have a fourth ‘Great Awakening’ in the process of occurring during our
lifetime. Like Pearl Harbor in the
twentieth century, this one is also being thrust upon us. We will not have the luxury of trying to
exhaust all peaceful means of resolution as existed during the first two
awakenings. Like it or not, believe it
or not, a war is being thrust upon us that we did not start, we did not ask
for, nor do we want. It is not we who have
declared this war, but some believers of Islam that have declared war on all
who do not hold to its tenets. Yes,
there are peaceful Muslims, but it is not Muslims that are the source of the
problem. I believe with all my heart
that the problem rests with the tenets of Islam itself. Simply put, they are contrary to
Judeo-Christian beliefs, and indeed contrary to the beliefs of any other
significant religion including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism. They are even contrary to those who hold to atheism. The differences in idealism between Islam and
other religions transcends not only our views of man’s nature, but includes how
we are to live and how we are to be governed, for our very purpose is no longer
the same. But before we can talk about
the tenets of Islam, one must have some basic understanding of the culture that
it grew out of, and that is the purpose of this particular post. At least it will be a start.
Some will no doubt say that I am a hater or
Islamaphobic. Nothing could be further
from the truth. If one sees a brother or
sister walking in error, we are duty bound to reach out, and that is what I am
attempting to do. Those who would try to
prevent the discussion are merely committing a jihad of the tongue or pen,
which we will explore in later posts.
Imagine that you are living in the Arabian Peninsula at the
end of the 6th century. It
has been about 350 years since Constantine made Christianity the official
religion of Roman Empire. The Empire has
split between East and West. There have
been five ecumenical counsels, and a schism exists between the eastern and
western church. It has been almost 200
years since the invasion of Italy by Attila and the Huns, and the subsequent sack
of Rome. It has also been about 150
years since the Saxons invaded Briton.
There were two peoples on the Arabian peninsula. The Saracens lived across most of the
peninsula. They were made up of two
groups; one settled and the other nomadic (Bedouins). The Sabeans lived primarily in the southern
part of the peninsula in what is present day Yemen. The Sabeans had a well-developed
architecture, legal system, and trade.
Their ports served as significant points of trade between Europe and the
East. They were primarily pagan, but
there were also Jewish tribes which lived among them.
It is the Saracens who matter for this discussion. The Bedouin culture was shaped by the land
and environment. Most people lived in a
narrow strip of land (the Hijas) along the western edge of the peninsula, or
across its southern end. The group that was
more settled lived in a few villages or around one of the oasis. They typically farmed, with the help of
irrigation. But most lived a nomadic life,
following annual routes that had been followed by their father and grandfather
before them. This later group raised
grazing stock (camels, sheep, or goats).
Most Arabs were pagans, but there were also Jews and Christians among
them, all living together.
Life was hard. The
nomadic groups were usually quite small, typically no more than two dozen or so
people. There was no central
authority. Instead the basis of
authority was the tribe. Each tribe had
its primary deity located in a fixed sanctuary.
These clans and tribes seldom gathered together and not for any length
of time. However, they did gather
annually in Mecca during the month of Ramadan for a trade fair. The Kaaba located there was one of the most
significant religious sites on the peninsula. The Kaaba was considered to be a
haram, a sacred place where overt conflict was forbidden. It is thought to have contained about 360
idols, including idols to all of the gods of all of the tribes in Arabia. A haram was placed in the charge of a
particular family, and the head of that family was referred to as a
mansib. Mansibs often acquired
significant political power and often served as mediators in tribal
disputes. Even more powerful where the
Kahins. These were tribal shamans who often
presented their sacred rituals as poetry, and poetry was considered to be a
high art form within the Arab culture at this time.
The nomadic and settled groups noted above were in
conflict. Wealth was fleeting and could
be taken at any time. The settled tribes
typically paid protection to a particular Bedouin clan to keep them safe from
other ones. Allegiances shifted based on
the current needs of a particular tribe.
Life was very difficult as often not enough goods could be consistently produced
to maintain living conditions for any particular group.
The quality known as muruwa (virility) was paramount. It was reflected by honor, courage,
endurance, and loyalty to one’s group (tribe and/or clan), and one’s social
obligations. Muruwa could be increased
by creating alliances beneficial to one’s tribe or performing heroic acts. Infringements of this moral code rendered the
individual liable to insults and the loss of honor. The killing outside of one’s clan wasn’t
necessarily bad. It depended upon
whether the results were judged to achieve a good end. Blood feuds were frequent and required if
one’s muruwa was impugned. Relations
between tribes were generally held together by blood and mutual
If one looked at a map of the known world at the time, it
could be divided into four quadrants. To
the northwest was the remains of the Roman Empire. It was reduced in size and power, and now
existed only around the edge of the Mediterranean Sea. It was Christian, although two separate
churches in the east and the west now existed.
In the southwest quarter was the kingdom of Abyssinia. Located in modern Ethiopia and the Sudan, it
also was primarily Christian. To the
northeast was the Persian Empire. Persia
was a truly multi-religious society.
Most of the military and Persian aristocracy were followers of
Zoroastrianism, also a monotheistic religion who believed in the god Ahura
Mazda. The largest non-Zoroastrian group
were the Nestorian Christians, followed by Jews, Monophysite Christians, and
Gnostics. Finally there were also pagans
in Persia. The Nestorians and
Monophysite Christians were considered heretics within the Roman Empire but
were welcomed by the Persians.
In the southeast quadrant was the Arabian Peninsula, which
was at times labeled the Empty Quarter on maps from this era. First the Romans, then the Persians, and
finally the Abyssinians each in term attempted to conquer the peninsula, and each
one had failed. Rome and Persia by the
end of the sixth century had been fighting each other for over five hundred
years. While they sometimes fought
directly with each other, in this part of their empires they often paid what in
essence was protection to one tribe to protect their regional interests. In particular, the Ghassnids were hired by
the Romans, and the Laknids by the Persians.
These two tribes were natural enemies as the former was primarily Monophysite
and the later Nestorian Christian, and the two sects did not like one another
as they thought the other were heretics.
So to summarize, we have the following:
A people with much pride, who felt they were being used by other powers for their own ends.
A people feeling that they had been left behind
as they did not have the wealth of Byzantine, the power of Persia, or the
commerce and architecture of Southern Arabia.
A weakening in the historical ties of blood
between clans and ties, and its replacement by mutual self-interest.
The only area in the Near East not dominated by
This is the Arabia that existed when Muhammad was born late
in the sixth century. The principles
drawn from his revelations constitute the tenets of Islam. In the next several posts, we will compare
and contrast Islamic and Judeo-Christian beliefs in the areas of: (1) the nature of God, (2) the nature of
man/creation, and (3) the relationship between the two. We will see in what direction we head after
that. Your comments and feedback are
Peace and Blessings to you all.