16 If It Was Only About Going Around in Circles
Uzza: The battle for Medina is usually referred to as the Battle of the Ditch because of a trench that was dug in six days on the flat approaches to the city. This “ditch” completely stymied the Meccan forces.
For two weeks an army of ten thousand which included a 300-horse cavalry unit waited for their befuddled commander Abu Sufyan to devise a strategy to overcome the obstacle and defeat an army estimated at 3,000. He waited for two weeks before a windstorm forced his troops, who were out in the open, to return to Mecca never to threaten the city again.
Archie: Even if they could find 3,000 shovels for 3,000 men, which I doubt, they could not have, in six days, dug a ditch deep enough and wide enough that it could not be crossed with a little effort, or long enough that it could not be gotten around.
Uzza: That is the story that is told to school children. It is part of our history.
Archie: And who wrote these stories where the Muslims are constantly fighting superior forces who are unable to withstand their attack or finish them off?
Uzza: You must understand, until the Arabs as a nation under Islam became a force to be reckoned with and burst out of the Peninsula intent on making the world that of Allah, nobody paid any attention to commonplace skirmishes between tribes. These involved mostly posturing until the believers escalated them into violent confrontations.
Gerry: Surely the Prophet did not go unnoticed?
Uzza: At the time, Muhammad was just another doomsday prophet peddling a religion. That is how Mecca thrived, by appealing to every religion under the sun, inviting them to place a relic or an icon in a cube like structure, the Ka'ba, to which pilgrims could come and pay homage. The Ka'ba became such a hit, that, at the time of the Muslim conquest, there were at least 360 icons and relics in it including a statue of the virgin Mary. The desire to invite everyone to worship at the Ka'ba spawned the religious months during which travellers to Mecca were inviolate, until Muhammad broke with this civilizing tradition.
Gerry: I think the history of the world would have been a lot less bloody if this civilizing influence of the Arabs before Islam had been allowed to spread.
Uzza: The Arabs before Islam were the most civilized people of the time, and that was reflected in their tolerance of the benign beliefs of others.
Archie: And profiting from them.
Uzza: Nothing wrong with that when everybody is happy with the arrangement, and they were coming in their tens of thousands every year, especially for the Hajj.
Bob: The Hajj was something people did before the Muslims?
Uzza: The first person to perform the Hajj was Adam.
Bob: Of Adam and Eve?
Uzza: Yes. God told Adam to go to this place in the desert, which He said was located directly below the most sacred place in Paradise, and to erect the structure we know today as the Ka'ba.
Bob: And where was Adam when Allah told him to do this?
Uzza: In a place we know today as Sri Lanka.
Archie: What the Hell was he doing there?
Uzza: That is where he landed when Allah threw him and Eve out of Paradise.
Bob: Eve was with him. They fell together. Makes sense.
Uzza: Eve landed about 3,000 miles east on the shore of the Red Sea about 100 miles from Mecca, which of course did not exist at the time.
Archie: HOW DOES ANY OF THIS MAKE ANY SENSE? Assuming that the Koran is right and Paradise is about five miles up; two people falling from that height would not land 3,000 miles apart, let alone survive the fall? [catching himself] What I am doing trying to make sense out of nonsense. Next thing you know they will be calling me an Islamic scholar.
Uzza: [starting to enjoy getting Archie's goat] I don't think anyone will ever mistake you for an Islamic scholar Archie. Maybe if you grew a beard? [getting a bit drunk] How about another drink, you Islamic scholar you? So, who wants to hear the rest of the story of the Hajj and the Ka'ba?
Bob: I do.
Uzza: What about you Gerry?
Gerry: I'd love to hear it.
Archie: Sure, why not.
Uzza: You're going to love this Archie. When Adam was thrown out of Paradise he grabbed a stone.
Bob: I would have grabbed a parachute myself.
Uzza: A large stone which he dragged all the way to Mecca where Eve was waiting.
Gerry: That means it was a woman who first disturbed the sands of Mecca; a woman founded Mecca. Do you hear that!
Uzza: When you put it that way. But, it is the placement of the stone from Paradise that is associated with the founding of Mecca. It is as if Adam had planted Allah's flag when, after building the first Ka'ba, he made the stone its centerpiece and circled it seven times as the believers do today; counter clockwise bowing up and down as Muhammad demonstrated.
Gerry: In things big and small, the reversal of right and wrong you mentioned earlier, the Prophet was very much the contrarian, wasn't he?
Uzza: Clockwise is how the pagans circled the Ka'ba. It was perhaps Muhammad's way of again putting Islam's imprint on a pagan tradition. This is of course if you are not convinced that he was simply demonstrating the way Adam first did it.
Bob: Is going in circles in opposite directions the only difference in the way the pagans and the believers do the Hajj?
Uzza: The Hajj before Islam was not the somber ritual you have today. It was more a song and dance festival where you did your own thing. Some even circled the Ka'ba naked and nobody minded, until Muhammad put a stop to it. Allah described the pagan Hajj as "nothing but whistling and clapping." The pagan Hajj could also be considered the first to perform the Thanksgiving tradition of sparing the lives of animals. Muhammad said that Al-Khuzai, who is credited with starting the custom of setting animals free at the Hajj before Muhammad put a stop to that as well, would spend an eternity dragging his intestines in Hell's fire.
Bob: Was the Prophet always that crude and cruel?
Uzza: When it came to describing what Allah would do to those who did not do as they were told, yes!
Gerry: Did you do the Hajj?
Uzza: My father took me a few years ago. He wanted me to experience something he thought would be wonderful.
Gerry: And was it?
Uzza: Only if you like having your ass grabbed every time you bent down while going around in circles with a million other people.
Bob: You're kidding?
Uzza: It is next to impossible to segregate the sexes during the Hajj, therefore, women and girls must silently submit or risk being be accused of arousing the males next to them, to the probing hands of men and boys who are not allowed to get as close to the opposite sex as during the Hajj until they are married, and seek to understand with their hands what Islam has denied their eyes until their wedding night. I don't blame them. And it not only happens at the Hajj.
Gerry: But, you were with your father???
Uzza: Like I said, you're going around in circles squeezed in by a million or more people. He may have been close, but unless he looked up and sideways or backwards, which would have gotten him in serious trouble, he would not have seen the men crowding together to get at his daughter's behind.
Bob: What kind of trouble?
Uzza: Muhammad demonstrated how you did the Hajj as he demonstrated everything from how you prayed to how you ate, to how you clean yourself after answering the call of nature. Unless you did exactly as he demonstrated, especially anything that had to do with worshipping Allah, and I mean exactly, you risked serious injury even death. One day, an old man decided he could not complete the prayers as Muhammad was demonstrating. Later that day he was executed as an unbeliever.
Gerry: Did you tell your father about the groping?
Uzza: Why and spoil the Hajj for him.
Gerry: For your father, it was a good experience, then?
Uzza: My father was looking for a spiritual experience, and it wasn't. I don't know if it was the preachers shouting verses from the Koran as you made your way to different venues on stark concrete walkways, the unpicked garbage in large orange bags strewn about, the noise of animals being tortured to death or the visit to perhaps the largest shopping mall in the world only a few hundred yards from what is supposed to be the holiest place on earth, where someone stole his watch.
Bob: The Hajj is much more than just a pilgrimage then, it is a shopping destination?
Uzza: It is the Saudis combining the holy and the mercantile in Allah's and their cause. Organizing the Hajj and the year-round lesser pilgrimages is an expensive proposition; not to mention funding the mosques and madrassas around the world that will generate the pilgrims and the money that will keep the thousands of Princes of the House of Saud in the lifestyle they are accustomed to when the oil runs out. The sumptuous five stories Abraj Al Bait shopping mall with its more than 1,000 stores overlooking the Ka'ba is simply part of that strategy.
Archie: I am sure the merchant in the Prophet would approve.
Gerry: The pilgrimage has to be more than going around in circles, killing some animals, doing some shopping then going home?
Uzza: The Hajj is a five-day affair. There is the Tawaf, what you called going around in circles seven times; then there is the back and forth seven times between two hills to commemorate Hagar's search for water after being left with Ismael to fend for themselves by Abraham in the vicinity of the Ka'ba; then there is the procession to Mount Arafat to stand in vigil where Muhammad delivered his last sermon; then there is the procession to Mina where we all throw pebbles at a pillar in a recreation of the three occasions when Muhammad threw stones at the devil, just like Abraham did to scare him off, and finally the Feast of Eid ul Adha which marks the end of the Hajj. During this celebration of a man’s willingness to murder his son because God asked him to, hundreds of thousands of animals are slaughtered in the ritual manner, not only at Mecca but around the world.
Bob: Exactly what is this ritual manner of killing animals?
Uzza: As demonstrated by Muhammad, first you secure the animal in an upright position then cut its throat and watch it struggle as it bleeds to death; the awful noise it makes a testament to how painful this gratuitous cruelty can be. At one Hajj, Muhammad demonstrated the technique by personally slaughtering seven camel and two rams.
Bob: Isn't what the Prophet demonstrated what happens in slaughterhouses?
Uzza: Only in slaughterhouses that prepare halal meats which has become a booming business. When you see in your supermarket a piece of meat labeled halal it is from an animal that has been literally tortured to death, not from an animal that has been stunned into unconsciousness before being bled.
Gerry: And the Koran demands this, that animals whose meat is meant to be eaten be tortured to death?
Uzza: No, the Koran only prohibits the eating of carrion and decrees that animals at the Hajj be killed while standing up.
Bob: I could never kill an animal the way Muhammad did.
Uzza: You could if you had grown up in an environment where this was normal. Muslim children have been conditioned by celebrations such as the feasts that follow Ramadan and the Hajj to watch and learn, even enjoy the suffering of animals, and later human beings put to death in such a cruel manner.
Bob: The next time I see halal meat at my supermarket I may just throw up.
Uzza: There is also a benefit to children watching and learning how to kill an animal the ritual way. I remember looking at pictures of ISIS recruits and noticing their composure as they stood behind their kneeling victims getting ready to slice their throats like they would do a sheep. They are totally unperturbed, they know how it's done. The agony their victims are about to experience will not bother them. Most recruits into regular armed forces need to be trained and conditioned to kill. Not so for most of those who join the ranks of holy warriors as witnessed by the mass killings done by the fresh faces of Islamic State.
Gerry: That explains the knife attacks that have become commonplace; the micro-terrorism that has proven more terrifying and effective than the macro variety.
Bob: What do vegetarians at the Hajj eat?
Uzza: Only Muslims can do the Hajj and Muhammad said that those who don't eat meat are not Muslims.