ISLAM: Basis - Past - Present - Future


Part 7:

Muslims and Jews


by Manfred Davidmann

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Contents

Overview
Introduction
Arab Life at the Time of Mohammed
Sequence of Events
Findings

Relevant Current and Associated Works

References {..} and Links

Relevant Subject Index Pages and Site Overview



Overview

The aim of this report is to assemble an objective picture of what took place and of its background, looking in some detail at how the Koran was compiled so as to show what Mohammed taught in the name of God (Allah), and how this was recorded.

What we have is the Koran and traditions collected many years after the death of the Prophet. However, some uncertainty remains and so we are here embarking on a journey of exploration which will take us through the accumulated dust of many centuries to what Mohammed actually taught, to the revealed word of Allah, of God.

The report consists of seven consecutive free-standing parts. The seven parts follow each other in an intended sequence in which each is aiding and contributing to understanding the following part. The parts are:

1     Prophet Mohammed's Struggle for a Better Life for All
             
       

The information brought together in Part 1 relates primarily to Mohammed's struggle for recognition of his mission and message and is limited to this. Knowing about, and understanding, Mohammed's struggle is of vital importance if one wishes to understand what Mohammed taught, the Koran and Muslim belief and practice.

Throughout his whole life as Prophet he struggled against the powerful Meccan ruling elite, against the Meccan family which dominated Mecca, the Quraysh. They first opposed and then persecuted him and his followers for ten years, following which he fought them for ten years till he won and then he died.

So we need to know just what Mohammed taught which upset the elite so thoroughly and persistently, which caused him and his followers to be so harshly opposed and so actively persecuted.

         
2     Text, Language, Dialect and Interpretation of the Koran
         
       

The first step towards understanding the intent and substance of God's (Allah's) revelations as expressed by Mohammed's teachings, is to gain knowledge about the then developing Arabic written language, that is to understand how recorded letters and symbols were used to state the meaning of words, and about the dialects of the time.

Such knowledge and understanding is particularly important when considering how the Koran was assembled and what scholars and clerics have done and are doing when they are 'interpreting' the text of the Koran.

         
3     The Divine Right to Rule
         
       

Following Parts 1 and 2 we are here looking at the struggle for power and control over the Muslim community which took place after Mohammed died and seeing how Muslim belief and practice evolved in the two hundred years under the caliphs.

These events and struggles formed Sunnism and Shiism, shaped the Koran and Muslim belief and practice, underlie today's conflicts and confrontations within Islam.

         
4     Compiling the Koran: Hadiths (Traditions) State the Underlying Reality
         
       

Hadiths (traditions) tell that Zaid bin Thabit compiled the Koran and that Caliph Uthman later had an official version prepared.

The arabic text of these hadiths recorded the underlying reality. They state that on the one hand we have the word of benevolent Allah as taught by Mohammed that people (believers) should have a good life of high quality in this life, but that on the other hand is the ruling elite's opposing viewpoint that people should be obedient and serve willingly without questioning their condition.

         
5     Uthman's Rearrangement of the Chronological (as revealed) Koran's Chapters
         
        The important chapters (suras) singled out by 'abbreviated letters' show how the chronological (as revealed) sequence was changed. The effect of the changes on the record of Mohammed's preaching and teaching is described and followed by a discussion of the doctrines of 'Abrogation' and of 'Consensus' in relation to Mohammed's teachings.
         
6     Prophet Mohammed's Word of Allah and the Voice of the Ruling Elite
         
       

Mohammed's social teachings are stated from Koran chapters (suras) singled out by 'Abbreviated Letters', statements of revelation from compassionate and caring Allah. It seems that some self-seeking doctrines were added later by the ruling elite of that time.

The content of the corresponding compassionate and benevolent teachings are described as are the Koran's stated rewards for following them and the consequences of ignoring or opposing them.

         
7     Muslims and Jews
         
       

Includes a comprehensive summary table of the struggles of the Muslims while Mohammed was alive, primarily against the Meccan ruling elite but also including their conflicts with the Jewish Medinan clans.

The unexpected but convincing conclusions are directly relevant to understanding present tensions and conflicts within Islam.

     
See    
     
1   Prophet Mohammed's Struggle for a Better Life for All
     
2   Text, Language, Dialect and Interpretation of the Koran
     
3   The Divine Right to Rule
     
4   Compiling the Koran: Hadiths (Traditions) State the Underlying Reality
     
5   Uthman's Rearrangement of the Chronological (as revealed) Koran's Chapters
     
6   Prophet Mohammed's Word of Allah and the Voice of the Ruling Elite
     
7   Muslims and Jews



Introduction

A key part of this report is a comprehensive summary of the struggles of the Muslims (the followers of Mohammed) against the Meccan ruling elite of the Quraysh while Mohammed was alive, and of their conflicts with the Jewish Medinan clans.

The sequence of events listed here has largely been taken from Part 1  {5}, which relates primarily to Mohammed's struggle for recognition of his mission and message. Added here is the information about the small Jewish clans of Medina.

It is a factual record of what took place, from the work of well-known scholars and academics such as Richard Bell, Peter Mansfield and Maxime Rodinson, which confirm and complement each other. Meaning by this that it is a record of what actually happened.

And this factual record leads to unexpected but convincing conclusions.


Arab Life at the Time of Mohammed

We saw in Part 1 {5} that there were no restraints to communal acts of violence, that might was right.

According to Peter Mansfield there were raids and reprisals aimed at driving off the opponents' camels. Women and children captured in tribal warfare who were not ransomed became tribal slaves and could be bought and sold. {2}

Warlike raids were frequent, and Richard Bell records:
These for the most part aimed at capture of booty rather than at bloodshed. But it was a rough game, in which the attempt to drive off cattle and other booty often led to fighting and bloodshed. The law of retaliation prevailed. {1}

A defeated tribe's males could be slaughtered even after surrendering, their women and children enslaved, their possessions distributed among the victors, when there was no fear of retaliation. With loot (material and human) apparently being the key objective of intertribal skirmishes and warfare.

The tribes were constantly at war with each other, except for four months of truce every year. {4}


Apart from those who were full members of the tribe by descent, there would be others attached to it such as slaves. There were also 'clients' of the tribe who had asked for the sheikh's temporary protection, for example while pasturing their flocks on his land. {2}


Mohammed is born into this kind of society of illiterate desert Arabs. Life was harsh and a continuous struggle for survival.

And how Mohammed lived, and what he did or did not do, are the direct consequence of having to struggle, survive and succeed against great odds in that kind of society.


Sequence of Events

The information in the table which follows is arranged thus:

Date           Meccan Elite   (History of Mohammed's struggle against the Meccan elite)
      Jewish Clans   (Information about the Medinan Jewish clans, and history of the confrontations between Mohammed's followers and these clans. Set in as shown.)
        Outcome   (Listing of outcomes of these confrontations. Set in as shown.)
                         
         
613-622  

Mohammed taught that people should follow the edicts of the one all-seeing and almighty but compassionate God, and the obligation of generosity and respect for the rights of the poor and the defenceless. {3}

Preaching the obligation of generosity and respect for the rights of the poor and the defenceless, soon aroused the opposition of the Meccan elite.

Attacks upon the Meccan gods at length drew down persecution upon Mohammed's followers {1}. Mockery and insults turned into persecution and in 615 Mohammed advised some of his followers to take refuge in the Christian country of Abyssinia {3}. A number of his followers emigrated to Abyssinia.

Mohammed had now struggled to preach the word of God in this environment for roughly ten years. A small number believed, mostly of the poorer classes. The followers he drew were the rejected, the disadvantaged, the weak and the oppressed - slaves, women and minority tribes. {1, 5}

         
620-622  

Negotiations with parties from Yathrib (Medina) led to agreement. Mohammed gave the signal for his Meccan followers to slip quietly away to Medina. On September 622 Mohammed and his companions made their way to Medina and joined them. {1}

In Medina, Mohammed was the religious leader, the acknowledged head of the community (umma) of emigrants (muhajirun) which had federated with the eight major Medinan tribes called the supporters (ansar). {1, 2}

         
      Medina was also the home of some clans which professed Judaism. The Aws and the Khazraj (two of these eight tribes) each had clients from nomadic clans and from the Jewish clans, and the Jewish clans were included in the arrangement as allies of one of the eight clans (ansar).
         
622-623  

The needs of the Muhajirun (the emigrants who had left Mecca and come to Medina) were pressing. Needed were booty and supplies to sustain the impoverished Muslim community. {1, 2}

Small expeditions began to molest the Meccan caravans.

Many of Mohammed's followers disliked this new attitude.

Further difficulty was caused by an attack on a small caravan at Nakhlah at the beginning of Rajab II as it raised the question of fighting in the sacred months.

         
624 Feb  

An attempt to intercept one of the chief Meccan caravans returning from Syria led to a battle at the wells of Badr. The Quraysh army was defeated.

But the booty had not been so great as had been expected, and difficulties arose as to the division of it. {1}

         
624 Apr    

This was followed by the expulsion of one of the Jewish clans, the 'Bani Qainuqa', from Medina {1}

The Qaynuqa, who were traders and goldsmiths of Medina, retired to their strongholds where they were besieged. They surrendered to the Muslims after 15 days, and were given three days to leave the city, without their arms and probably without their goldsmiths' tools as well.

         
        The Jewish clan had to hand over their arms, their homes and properties, and apparently also the working tools on which their living depended.
         
625 Mar  

A large Meccan force appeared before Medina.

The Muslims decided to accept this Quraysh challenge, marched out and positioned themselves at Uhud, a hill to the north of the town. On the way, however, a portion of their army broke off and returned to Medina. The Muslims were defeated. {1}

The Quraysh, having no quarrel with Medina, withdrew. Some of the Muslim forces followed, and claimed a victory. {1}

Muslim raiding was resumed. {1}

A main drive was the search for booty and supplies to sustain the impoverished Muslim community. {2}

         
625 Aug   Morale among the Muslims was low after the unsuccessful battle with the Meccans. {1}
         
     

The Muslims sent an ultimatum to the 'Bani Nadir', another Jewish clan {1}, demanding that if they did not leave Medina within ten days they would be put to death. If they left, however, they would continue to own their palm groves and receive part of the produce.

The Nadir held out 15 days before surrendering to the Muslims.

         
       

They were allowed to leave but had to abandon their weapons and were not entitled to take their date harvest.

So the Jewish clan had to hand over their weapons, their homes, land and harvest.

         
627   The Meccans, finding their trade still being interfered with, formed a great coalition against Medina, which brought together a large force outside the town. As they lay inactive, the unity of their coalition began to wear out, and a storm of wind and rain finally dispersed it. {1}
         
     

When the Meccans unsuccessfully besieged Medina, the Qurayza, the last major clan of Jews in Medina, were neutral.

After the Meccans departed, the Muslims attacked the strongholds of the Qurayza. After 25 days the Qurayza asked to surrender on the same terms as the Nadir.

The Muslims demanded an unconditional surrender, which the Qurayza accepted.

         
       

All the men of Qurayza (about 600) were put to death, were ruthlessly slaughtered, the women and children sold as slaves {1} and the Muslims took all that had belonged to the Qurayza.

The decision to kill the male Qurayza and to enslave and sell their women and children, was not taken by the Prophet Mohammed.

A ruthless episode which it is difficult to reconcile with Mohammed's teachings 'that people should follow the edicts of the one all-seeing and almighty but compassionate God, and the obligation of generosity and respect for the rights of the poor and the defenceless. {3}'

         
627/8  

The Muslims thought they were strong enough to force their way into Mecca. Their Beduin allies, however, failed them. {1}

Professing peaceable intentions they set out, ostensibly to perform the pilgrimage. They found their way blocked by Meccan forces, and halting at the borders of the 'haram', at 'Hudaibiyah', entered into negotiations. The treaty they made was a disappointment to the Muslims. {1}

         
628 May    

This was followed in May 628 by an attack on the last independent Jewish clan of Khaibar. {1}

In May-June the Muslims conquered the oasis.

         
        The settlement with the Jewish clan stipulated that they would continue to live there, but pay a tax on half of their produce.
         
629 Sep  

A Muslim expedition northwards unexpectedly met strong Byzantine resistance and was defeated at Mutah. {1}

         
629 Dec   An expedition was got together to overwhelm Mecca. Negotiations meanwhile took place, and Mecca was entered almost without fighting. {1, 2}
         
        The conditions were the acceptance of Islam and the payment of the 'zakat' or tax for the support of the Muslim community. {1}


Findings

We saw that at the time of Mohammed there were no restraints to communal acts of violence (See section 'Arab Life at the Time of Mohammed'). Warlike raids were frequent and aimed at capture of booty. The possessions of the defeated were distributed among the victors, with loot (material and human) apparently being the key objective of intertribal warfare. Women and children captured in tribal warfare who were not ransomed became tribal slaves and could be bought and sold.

Small and thus in practice virtually defenceless, the Jewish clans were allied to ('clients' of) large Medinan Arab tribes and the record shows that the Jewish clans never attacked the Muslims.

When attacked by the emigrants (muhajirun), these small Jewish clans were apparently left unprotected by their Arab Muslim allies who were of the ansar.

We also saw that
Mohammed taught that people should follow the edicts of the one all-seeing and almighty but compassionate God, and the obligation of generosity and respect for the rights of the poor and the defenceless. {3}

The attacks on the Jewish clans were simply not motivated or caused by religion. In accordance with the then current Arab way of living, these attacks were driven by the search for booty and supplies to sustain the impoverished emigrants, the Muslim community. The record shows without doubt that whenever the Muhajirun (emigrants) suffered a setback, they next attacked one of the small Jewish clans to take over their arms, homes, properties, working tools, palm groves and harvest. To obtain booty and supplies in accordance with the then current ways of struggling for survival.


Relevant Current and Associated Works

Other relevant current and associated reports by Manfred Davidmann:
     
     
Title   Description
     
Prophet Mohammed's Struggle for a Better Life for All     Mohammed's struggle for recognition of his mission and message against the powerful Meccan ruling elite. They opposed and then persecuted him and his followers for ten years, following which he fought them for ten years till he won and then he died.
     
Text, Language, Dialect and Interpretation of the Koran   How the written Arabic language developed from the time of Mohammed and how the Koran was assembled. How recorded letters and symbols were used to state the meaning of words. Compares 'readings' and interpretations.
     
The Divine Right to Rule   The struggle for power and control over the Muslim community after Mohammed died and how Muslim belief and practice evolved under the caliphs. These events and struggles formed Sunnism and Shiism, shaped the Koran and Muslim belief and practice.
     
Compiling the Koran: Hadiths (Traditions) State the Underlying Reality   Zaid bin Thabit compiled the Koran, Caliph Uthman had an official version prepared. Mohammed taught that people (believers) should have a good life, the ruling elite considered that people should serve willingly.
     
Uthman's Rearrangement of the Chronological (as revealed) Koran's Chapters   Chapters (suras) marked by 'abbreviated letters' show how the sequence of the Koran's chapters was changed. The effects of the changes on the record of Mohammed's preaching and teaching are described as are the doctrines of 'Abrogation' and 'Consensus'.
     
Prophet Mohammed's Word of Allah and the Voice of the Ruling Elite   Mohammed's social teachings are stated from chapters (suras) singled out by 'Abbreviated Letters', statements of revelation from compassionate and caring Allah. It seems that some self-seeking doctrines were added later by the ruling elite of that time.
     
Muslims and Jews   Includes a comprehensive summary table of the struggles of the Muslims while Mohammed was alive, including their conflicts with the Jewish Medinan clans. The conclusions are directly relevant to understanding present tensions and conflicts within Islam.
     
The Meaning of Genesis: Creation, Evolution and the Origin of Evil   Shows that there is no conflict, no contradiction, no divergence, only awe-inspiring agreement, between what is recorded in Genesis and what we know about the evolution of human beings. And Genesis defines good and evil, pointing to the root of evil.
     
The God-given Human Rights, Social Laws and Social System   A comprehensive statement of the God-given human rights which underlie all freedom, liberty and independence. They are the foundation of the main religions of Judaism, Christianity and Islam, and they underlie and determine a good life of high quality.
     
One Law for All: Freedom Now, Freedom for Ever   Document describing the struggles within Judaism which accompanied the birth of Rabbinical Judaism, how people felt about what was happening, how the Talmud recorded events and what would have to be done to reverse the trend of events.
     
Causes of Antisemitism   Shows that there are two separate root causes of antisemitism. One cause can be remedied by increasing peoples' awareness, the other is under the control of the Jewish people and can be remedied from within.
     
ORIGIN OF CHRISTIANITY and JUDAISM   Proves by methods of biblical archaeology what Jesus really taught, how Paul changed what Jesus had taught, how this became Christianity's official doctrine. Outstanding are sections on Paul and the Gospels, on concurrent corresponding changes in Judaism.


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References and Links

{1}   Introduction to the Qur'an
Richard Bell
Edinburgh University Press
1958
     
{2}   The Arabs
Peter Mansfield
Penguin Books
Third edition, 1992
     
{3}   Muhammad
Maxime Rodinson
Tauris Parke Paperbacks
1971, 2002
ISBN 1 86064 827 4
     
{4}   Tune into the "new conscience of Islam"
Sophie Boukhari interviewing Abdou Filali-Ansari
Unesco Courier
November 2001
     
{5}   Prophet Mohammed's Struggle for a Better Life for All
Manfred Davidmann
http://www.solhaam.org/



Relevant Subject Index Pages and Site Overview


The Site Overview page has links to all individual Subject Index Pages which between them list the works by Manfred Davidmann which are available on the Internet, with short descriptions and links for downloading.

To see the Site Overview page, click Overview

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Copyright    ©    2003    Manfred Davidmann
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History
20/01/04 To Website.
02/02/04 Some textual improvements.