Remembering Uzza

If Islam was explained to me in a pub

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The First Holy Homicide

Uzza: In Medina lived three Jewish tribes. The Jews of Medina were a wealthy, prosperous community. They were also considered the intellectual class of the city. If it had not been for the Jews of Medina who intervened to shelter Muhammad, who was on the run from his Meccan kin who wanted to kill him for promoting what they considered a hateful intolerant religion, Islam would have been literally dead on arrival.

Gerry: Were these the same Jews about whom the Prophet said stones would betray their presence so that the Muslims could kill them?

Uzza: That was a Judgment Day prophecy where Muhammad said that before that came about, a mass slaughter of the Jews would take place, and that stones would alert the believers to any Jews, who, to avoid getting killed, hid behind them[43].

Archie: [under his breath] And I thought a talking sponge was a bit of a stretch[44].

Bob: Why did the Jews save a guy who hated them that much?

Uzza: The hate would come later. When Muhammad sought refuge in the oasis city, he was welcomed by the Jews, in part, because he preached that the god of the Old Testament was the one and only God. They even entered into a covenant with him to come to his aid if the Muslims were attacked. In return, he signed a promise of non-aggression.

Bob: What happened to make them hate each other?

Uzza: The three Jewish tribes of Medina did not see the rise of Islam as a threat to them until Muhammad and his followers developed an appetite for booty and started raiding the caravans that passed by the city on their way to and from Mecca.

Bob: And Allah was okay with that?

Uzza: Yes. He sent out a revelation to that effect, telling Muhammad and his followers that He had retroactively made it lawful for the believers, for them only, to take spoils, captives, even the food of unbelievers[45]. Muhammad even bragged that Allah had given him, and by extension the believers, the keys to the treasures of the world. He said: "I have been made victorious with terror, and while I was sleeping, the keys of the treasures of the world were brought to me and put in my hand.[46]"

Archie: Back the Prophet up for a minute. Did you just say that terrorism leads to victory?

Uzza: I did not say that.

Archie: No, but he did.

Uzza: You could say that.

Bob: That means, when Islamists commit acts of terrorism, they are just following the example of the Prophet. It’s a religious thing. WOW!

Uzza: The terrorism Muhammad talked about was not about getting your neighbour to fear you, but to fear God.

Bob: Like I said, it’s a religious thing.

Archie: Doesn’t your religion have commandments about not killing, blowing people to bits to impress other people into becoming Muslims or your brand of believers?

Uzza: Islam does not have commandments like the Ten Commandments which are universal in their application[47]. There are similar admonitions against killing and stealing and so on in the Koran but they all come with an exception (appendix: Tolerance Abrogated); and the exceptions usually have to do with what you can do to unbelievers, but not to the believers.

Archie: Are you saying that if a Muslim steals from another Muslim it is a sin, but if he steals from an unbeliever it is not; if he kills another Muslim it is a sin, if he kills an unbeliever it is not; if he lies to a Muslim it is a sin, if he lies to an unbeliever it is not; if he rapes a Muslim it is a sin, if he rapes an unbeliever it is not. Is that what I’m hearing?

Uzza: Sort of. It is simply another form of terror to get you to submit to Allah's Will and avoid all that unpleasantness.

Archie: Terror is not an unpleasantness, even when the threat is not carried out. It is a horrible thing to do to people and a bloody crime!

Uzza: It is only a crime if you could have gotten someone to submit by less drastic means but chose terror. Allah will not be happy. You really do not want Allah to be unhappy with you. Terror is a last resort.

Archie: Not according to the Prophet.

Uzza: Whatever Muhammad said or did cannot contradict the Koran and the Koran condones violence only as a last resort. Therefore, if Muhammad said he was successful through terrorism it was because only through terrorism could he be successful in the time that he lived. And he was proven right through the ages.

Gerry: But terrorism can't be justified in the age that we live and be the reason why we're toast.

Uzza: Consider what has happened since the attack on the World Trade Center and the London subway bombings, the Nice and Bataclan massacres, and the list goes on. Laws have been passed that stifle criticism of the very scriptures that inspired and continue to inspire the indiscriminate slaughter of men, women and children, allowing Islam to advance almost unchallenged to a point where, to use your expression, "we are toast."

Gerry: When did the Prophet reach the conclusion that a fear of being killed was the best way to get converts to Islam?

Uzza: It all started with a raid that went wrong, perhaps by design. Muhammad arrived in Medina a former merchant with nothing to trade, leading a bunch of men with no marketable skills. Medina was a peaceful oasis city where those who understood how to grow things were in demand, not warriors. How were the believers to survive, and Allah expected them to survive, except by stealing? Raids on unescorted caravans during the months that were not considered sacred and which did not involve killing anyone were not that uncommon, especially by Bedouins. You intimidated your victims into parting with their belonging by a simple show of strength.

Gerry: How civilized.

Uzza: Robert Montagne, in La civilisation du désert, wrote of the pre-Islamic Arabs: "I am not aware in the entire history of civilisation of a more gracious, more loving, more vibrant society than that of the Arabs before Islam … [it was a time] … of unbound freedom, lofty sentiments, a nomadic and chivalrous way of life, [a land] of fantasy, joy, mischievousness, bawdy impious poetry, refined love-making…"

Bob: "Refined love-making." I can go for that.

Uzza: There was also a practical reason you avoided killing anyone, for Talion law was the law of the land. You killed anyone and their extended family, their tribe would demand retribution in kind and you did not want that. Anyway, that would soon change, a change Allah approved of which heightened the Jews' apprehension of the people they had saved.

Bob: What is Talion law again?

Uzza: It means "law of retaliation." It is most commonly expressed as "an eye for an eye.”

Gerry: Isn't that also what Islamic law is about?

Uzza: Talion law made it almost unchanged into the Koran. It is one of the defining differences between Islam and Christianity. You say turn the other cheek; we say slap him right back[48].

Archie: What was this raid that changed everything?

Uzza: The Meccans' response to the Muslim raiders was to send larger detachments of armed men to accompany their caravans. This did the trick, forcing Muhammad and the believers to look for softer targets. The softer target that would change everything was a small unescorted farmers’ caravan making its way from Ta’if to Mecca.

Gerry: Why would Muhammad be interested in a farmer's labour when he lived on an oasis?

Uzza: It is possible that the raid, especially the timing of it, was a ploy by the farsighted Muhammad to do away, once and for all, with the interdiction against warfare during the Sacred Months. An interdiction which he could foresee would play havoc with his plans to Islamisize (sic) the Peninsula by force.

Archie: What are these sacred months?

Uzza: Today they are sacred in name only. In pre-Islamic times there was a four-month festival centered on Mecca, a festival referred to as the Sacred Months. The Sacred Months allowed everyone to make their way to Mecca unmolested. During this period, all faiths came together; all wars and all petty quarrels had to stop.

Gerry: Again, how civilized.

Uzza: That all changed with the first unprovoked murder of an unbeliever. In November 623, having failed to plunder even a single Meccan caravan passing between the Red Sea and Medina, Muhammad decides to attack a non-Meccan caravan plying another route. It is all very hush-hush. Even the men who will carry out the raid do not yet know their ultimate target.

The leader of an eight-man raiding party is given a letter by Muhammad — yes, somebody else probably wrote it — which he is told not to read until he arrives at a famous well two days ride by camel. Two weeks later, they reach their final destination on the trade route between Mecca and Ta’if where they wait for a caravan making its way from Ta’if to Mecca.

There is still a day left in the sacred month of Rajab when they spot four men on their way to Mecca with a cargo of raisins, wine and animal skins. If they wait a day until the end of the sacred month to attack, the small caravan will have reached the precinct of Mecca and will be inviolate.

What to do? Follow Muhammad's instructions, which they believe to be from God or respect God’s sacred month? They decide to attack, and one of the four people with the caravan is killed. Amr-ben-al Hadra’mi becomes the first reported murder of an unbeliever by a believer.

When they return to Medina, the story of the murder of Hadra’mi during a sacred month has spread far and wide. A scandal erupts. Believers and unbelievers alike are aghast that anyone would pillage and murder during a sacred month and that this sacrilege would be tolerated. Muhammad's reputation and his quest are at stake.

He is surprised by the uproar but is unperturbed. He orders that the puny plunder for which a man was killed — raisins, wine and animal skins — be set aside and not distributed until he has heard from God. A few days later, the Angel Gabriel delivers revelations from Allah intended to clarify the rules regarding this killing business during a sacred month. In a series of revealed truths, Allah implicitly condones the killing of unbelievers year-round if it will advance His Cause[49].

Archie: And what is His Cause?

Uzza: A world governed by the Sharia, which means God's law. The murder of Hadra’mi haunts us, all of us, to this day. His murder and Allah's failure to categorically condemn the killing during a sacred month meant that jihad could be conducted throughout the year. This could have been Muhammad's objective all along, we do not know.

Archie: From what you just said, it was. The Prophet wanted the people to kill for him and to have no problem with it, so he made murder on his behalf murder on a god’s behalf. He made cold-blooded, premeditated, self-serving murder holy if you murdered those who didn’t buy into what he preached.

Bob: Holy Homicide, Batman.

Uzza: Jihadists and Islamists murder in Allah's Cause, not Muhammad’s. They consider the murders they commit morally justifiable because they ARE DONE on God’s behalf.

Archie: Like I said!

Uzza: Islam operates under a different morality than the comic-book Western variety.

Gerry: Uzza, how can you call Western morality, which is based on Judeo-Christian values, comical?

Uzza: I am sorry. I did not wish to denigrate those values. Quite the contrary. Bob’s Batman comment reminded me that in comic books, the battle between good and evil is taken seriously. In real life, it was not, which is why Judeo-Christians values, which consider murder immoral under all circumstances, are about to be replaced by dogma where murder is not only permissible but encouraged.

Bob: So, the first holy homicide was a positive thing?

Uzza: From an Islamic perspective, yes.

Bob: What happened next?

Archie: More holy homicides. What do you think?!