Remembering Uzza

If Islam was explained to me in a pub

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Overkill Becomes the Norm

Uzza: An irresistible opportunity for revenge on the Jews for making fun of the Jizya and for plunder presented itself with the retaliation killing of a Muslim by a Jew of the Banu Qaynuqa, the smallest of the three Jewish tribes of Medina. A Muslim girl was sitting in a Jewish goldsmith shop while waiting for the shopkeeper to return with some ornament when, unbeknownst to her, a woman pinned the hem of her skirt. When she got up, everyone had a good laugh. The poor girl was mortified. A passing Muslim killed the Jew he thought responsible. The brother of the man killed then killed his brother's killer. There was a clamor for revenge on the tribe of Banu Qaynuqa.

Bob: Uh-oh!

Uzza: Muhammad gathered his followers and took the Jews of the Banu Qaynuqa as prisoners. There was talk of execution until Muhammad decided to simply curse the Jews, confiscate their property and send them into exile.

Bob: Nobody else died. That was unexpected.

Uzza: He probably spared them to avoid spooking the remaining Jewish tribes of Medina into joining the forces gathering outside the city to avenge the defeat at Badr.

Archie: The Meccans are back. Great!

Uzza: The Meccans were not about to let their defeat at Badr go unavenged. A large detachment of troops accompanied by the men's wives, which was not unusual, marched on Medina. At a place called Uhud they waited for the believers to come out and fight them, which they did.

Gerry: Did the women accompany their men because a victory was assured?

Uzza: Not necessarily. They were there to urge their men on, many tearing their clothing, exposing their breasts in defiance and letting their men know what awaited them if they were victorious.

Archie: Or what the other guy would get his hands on if they weren’t.

Uzza: Perhaps.

Bob: WOW! Arab women showing their boobs in public.

Uzza: Arab women, before Islam, were not the dominated prudes you see today. Before Islam, Arab women were very much spirited partners of the men they married.

Gerry: What a modern outlook.

Uzza: The Arab men and women of what Islam calls the Age of Ignorance, before Allah sent the Book to Muhammad, were modern before modern became a dirty word.

Archie: From women who bared their breasts in defiance, to women who won't bare their nose to sneeze.

Uzza: It was these bold women who would be the difference in the only battle the Meccans would win, not because of what they did before the battle but during; they ran away thinking the battle was lost, which it was, until they took flight.

Archie: And holy warriors rushed after them to be the first to get themselves one of those brash Meccan girls, allowing the Meccans to get back in there.

Uzza: How did you know?

Archie: After everything you said about the motivation of those who fight in Allah’s Cause, it was a no-brainer.

Uzza: Another Muslim victory was at hand until Muhammad's archers, thinking the battle already won and seeing some women flee, shouted "The booty, the booty," and started running after them[148]. The Meccan cavalry seized the opportunity and counterattacked, turning a near victory for the believers into a rout. Archie: Allah must have been pissed!

Uzza: Like Muhammad, Allah was no fool and kept His cool and counselled His spokesperson to do the same[149].

Archie: Sure, let’s keep pretending they are not one and the same.

Bob: You mean He didn’t send armed angels like He did at Badr to help out?

Archie: Bob, let me tell you something about gods. When their side wins, it is because of them; when their side loses, it’s not their fault, or they caused their side to lose − but not by too much − to teach it a lesson, or for some other made up excuse[150].

Bob: Uzza, is Allah like that?

Uzza: Well, He did not send angels to help out at Uhud like He did at Badr where He took credit for the victory. At the beginning of the Koran’s account of the defeat at Uhud, Allah does admit that the sight of the booty was a test to see who desired Paradise more than what this world has to offer, but He forgave those who failed the test[151].

Bob: Why would He do that; forgive them, I mean?

Archie: Because, Bob, these gods need real people to do the killing, because they’re not real.

Uzza: Real or not, the believers were needed to fight another day, that is for sure. And when that day came, which was soon, He did not want them to be distracted by the booty when they should be killing people, so He simply warned them not to do it again and forgave them.

Bob: But when do you know that you have killed enough people that it is safe to go scavenging for booty?

Uzza: You cannot, which is why Allah chose to err on the side of caution and advised overkilling them, killing more than might be necessary to achieve victory[152]. The lesson has not been lost on holy warriors to this day.

Archie: Godlike in both its simplicity and immorality.

Bob: What about the people who ran for their lives when the Meccans counterattacked? Surely they were not to blame.

Uzza: Nonetheless, Allah forgave them, blaming the devil for their flight to safety[153], an illusionary safety He will later explain.

Archie: What did I tell you?

Bob: An illusionary safety, what is that?

Uzza: It was not enough to get the believers to overkill. Allah, or Muhammad, if you agree with Archie, also had to get them to get over their fear of death, get them to look forward to it if they were going to triumph over the death-wary unbelievers.

Gerry: Are you saying that transforming Islam into what some people call a death cult began in earnest after the defeat at Uhud?

Uzza: After the defeat at Uhud you get the pep talk you hear in one form or another throughout the Koran, where Allah reminds the believers that He decides when and where someone dies; that no one can play it safe[154], and if He causes any of them to die in His Cause, all their sins are forgiven and they get to meet with Him before everyone else[155].

Bob: And get a first crack at the maidens and the houris before the Judgment Day stampede to get at them.

Uzza: Probably. Allah is not one to withhold what He has promised[156].

Bob: Bring on the grim reaper.

Gerry: Uzza, how many believers got to meet Allah that day?

Uzza: After killing as many believers as there were Meccans killed at Badr, the Meccans withdrew, considering the dead of Badr avenged. Had they pursued the fleeing believers, they would have annihilated them once and for all.

Bob: Maybe they were in a hurry to enjoy the breasts of victory.

Uzza: The pre-Islamic Arabs were not the bloodthirsty type. The Meccans returned home because under Talion Law, the dead had been avenged and no one else needed to die. The pagan Arabs' aversion to unmitigated violence, as well as the limit they placed on retaliation killing compared to that demanded by an adulterated Talion law and Allah's opened-ended endorsement of killing in His Cause, sealed the fate of the pagan Arabs.

Gerry: I can't believe men could be distracted by women to the point of risking losing a battle.

Uzza: Put yourself in those young men's shoes. What was fleeing was a chance at intimacy, something most of them would not experience unless they literally grabbed it, not unlike the young men who are responsible for the repeated rape epidemics in India. Most were not fighting for something we would consider honourable; they were fighting, as Archie said, for the promise of what was getting away.