Remembering Uzza

3.4 Allahu Akbar! Khaybar is Ruined

(2.5 draft)

Uzza: The Prophet will use the breathing space provided by the Treaty of Hudaibiyah to complete the encirclement of Mecca. Under the Treaty, Mecca must remain neutral in disputes between the believers and their enemies and that includes the Jews of Khaybar.

Archie: How could the Meccans be so stupid?

Uzza: One explanation is that Muhammad was an old man, in his late fifties when he signed the treaty. He had already exceeded the life expectancy of people of his time. If he respected the terms of the treaty, Mecca was safe for at least ten years during which time Muhammad would undoubtedly have passed away and the threat to the city would have receded without a fight.

Gerry: It was obviously a miscalculation.

Uzza: It might have worked if Muhammad's age had not worked against them, not for them as they may have expected.

Bob: I don't understand.

Uzza: Muhammad, probably because of his age and expectations, was a man in a hurry.

Gerry: Are you saying that he had no intention of respecting the terms of the treaty he just signed?

Uzza: Like most doomsday prophets Muhammad expected that fateful day to occur in his lifetime. Unlike most doomsday prophets, he expected to help bring it about and perhaps avoid spending any time in the grave.

Gerry: From what you have told us about life in the grave, I would not want to spend any time as a zombie if I could help it.

Uzza: Avoiding life in the grave is probably a greater incentive for suicide bombers to do what they do then the promise of assembly-line sex for an eternity.

Bob: Was the Prophet, if he helped bring about Judgement Day, expecting to be raptured or something, and be raised up to heaven before all hell broke loose?

Uzza: That is a Christian belief. Except for Jesus and martyrs, every men, women and child, even the prophets must spend time in the grave until Judgement Day.

Gerry: But if Islam considers Jesus just another prophet of Allah, and even for the prophets there is no avoiding a zombie-like existence, why the exception?

Uzza: God needed a general, so to speak, to lead the forces of good against the forces of evil during the end-times cataclysmic battles.

Gerry: But that is a Christian belief?

Uzza: And an Islamic one as well, with one key distinction. The forces of good are the believers.

Gerry: That is a big difference!

Archie: No kidding. So, Uzza, how does if feel having a drink with a bunch of evil dudes instead of hanging out with the righteous twosome dressed in original Model T colours who came in earlier?

Uzza: You are not evil.

Archie: Is it because black is not our favourite colour?

Uzza: Don’t be silly.

Gerry: You are not losing your religion are you Uzza?

Uzza: If I did, I would not admit it. I am not that brave.

Gerry: I think you are [touches her hand].

Bob: Getting back to the old guy and his obsession with killing Jews.

Uzza: Muhammad was not obsessed with killing Jews. Yes, he was upset with them for denying his claim to prophethood because he was not a Jew, but it was his obsession with what he thought was a looming Judgement Day that drove him to fight them, and when necessary, kill them.

Gerry: How was killing Jews helping him to bring about Judgement Day?

Uzza: Muhammad said that the last hour will not come until Muslims vanquished the Romans, the Byzantines at a place call Dabiq in modern day Syria, a few miles from the Turkish border. He intended to lead the believers in a last battle which would usher the end-times and Judgement Day.

Archie: Who did he think he was?

Uzza: We've talked about that before. He saw himself as the Arab Moses. Moses led his people to the Promised Land. Muhammad would lead his people to Dabiq, the last stopover before the Hereafter where he will stand next to God and be praised by his tribesman for having saved most of them from Hell's fire and to watch as Allah sentences those who refused to submit to burn for an eternity in Hell.

Archie: Talk about delusional.

Uzza: He was not crazy. Muhammad had a plan and it involved forging a united Arab nation under God able to field an army capable of defeating the Byzantines. A necessary step was removing the Jewish threat should the Meccans come to theirs senses and renew their alliance with the Jews of Khaybar.

Archie: Fickle allies the Meccans were.

Bob: Are you imitating Yoda now Archie?

Archie: Star Wars is a parody of another fight between good and evil, between light and darkness. And the bad guys are all dressed in black.

Bob: No, they don't all wear black. The stormtroopers all wear white armor.

Archie: A sometimes confusing storyteller this Lucas person is.

Gerry: But not Uzza. I have never heard the story of Islam told to me in such an engaging faction where it all makes sense.

Uzza: You're too kind.

Gerry: Forget this Star Wars nonsense, Uzza. I want to hear more about how we got into the mess we find ourselves in today with Western Civilisation on the brink of annihilation.

Uzza: From Islam's point of view, believers are bringing order to chaos; cleaning up the mess you say you find yourselves in today.

Archie: And what has the killing of the Jews of Khaybar have to do with cleaning up a mess, except for one of the Prophet's own making?

Uzza: Muhammad did not kill all the male Jews of Khaybar. Medina had thought him that farmers are useful in both war and peace. He allowed the surviving Jews of Khaybar to continue farming the land with him taking 50% of the crop, to feed his army mostly.

Archie: I'll bet that is not all he got for his troubles.

Uzza: Yes, he also took for himself a 17-year-old Jewish teenager by the name of Safiyyah bint Huyai, as his eleventh wife after allowing a holy warrior to take her as his slave.

Archie: A bit of an Indian-giver was the Prophet, was he?

Uzza: The use of that expression does not become you Archie and he was not the type of person you describe. Muhammad was supervising the distribution of the women and girls of his dead and defeated enemy when a holy warrior came forward and asked him for a slave girl from among the captives. He picked the young and beautiful Safiyyah. That was before a companion informed Muhammad of her beauty and status as the widow of a chief among the Jews.

Bob: Just like Rayhanah?

Uzza: No, unlike Rayhanah, Safiyyah was a merry widow, happy to be rid of an abusive husband, it is said, and happy to become the wife of Muhammad even if the customary dowry demanded by the Koran would not be available to ransom herself, as unlikely as that was about to happen.

Bob: Muhammad broke the law?

Uzza: Of course not. She may have been a slave for only a short time, but he made her a free woman before he married her and deemed her freedom to be her dowry.

Gerry: What you’re saying is that his new teenaged acquisition cost him nothing and he changed the law in the process because it suited him.

Uzza: That is not what I am saying at all.

Bob: What did you mean by ransom herself?

Uzza: The Koran demands that a bride be given a dowry. This is meant to give the wife-to-be some means of looking after herself, if only for a short period, should her husband divorce her and she must leave his home forthwith. A believing man unhappy with a marital choice need only repeat twice to his wife “I divorce you” before sending her packing after ascertaining she is not pregnant with his child.

A wife’s dowry is her only possession, everything else including the family home is exclusively her husband’s. Her dowry is also one of the few means she has of “ransoming herself”, that is foregoing her dowry to obtain a divorce from say an abusive husband.

Gerry: Not providing Safiyyah a “real” dowry makes the Prophet out to be a bit of a scrooge.

Uzza: Muhammad was parsimonious, I will admit. When his daughter Fatima asked her father to give her one of his slave-girls to help with the housework he refused, telling her that more prayers would be just as helpful.

Bob: You don't get rich by giving your stuff away, that's for sure.

Uzza: Whatever Muhammad took for himself he spent most of it in Allah's Cause.

Archie: How do you spend women in Allah's Cause?

Uzza: As a reward. I am sure if giving one or more of his many wives to a holy warrior would have advanced Allah's Cause, Muhammad would have done so.

Archie: If you believe that, I've got a bridge you might be interested in.

Uzza: You are impossible.

Gerry: A wife without a dowry could not ransom herself, making an unhappy marriage possibly worse than slavery. That would make what Bernard Lewis said about the lot of women in Islam even more true, that women in Islam were worse off than unbelievers or slaves, and by slaves he meant male slaves. "The slave could be freed by his master; the unbeliever could at any time become a believer by his own choice, and thus end his inferiority. Only the woman was doomed forever to remain what she was."

Uzza: There is some truth to that.

Bob: Muhammad was pushing sixty and he felt confident enough to satisfy a 17-year-old girl and ten other wives. Was he some kind of sexual superman?

Uzza: A man in extraordinary physical shape for his age definitely, considering he survived being poisoned at a celebratory diner where one of his younger companions did not.

Bob: Who had the nerve to try to poison the Prophet during dinner?

Uzza: A woman of course.

Gerry: Why a woman?

Uzza: I believe women are more willing to risk their lives to protect those they love, or, in this instance, avenge those they loved.

Archie: Nothing like a woman scorned.

Uzza: The attempt on Muhammad's life had nothing to do with the pettiness of a woman scorned. After his victory over the farmers of Khaybar most of the leadership of the city and their sons were beheaded and their wives and daughters place into captivity until they could be allocated to a deserving believer by Muhammad, as was initially done with Safiyyah.

Archie: I take some satisfaction in knowing that the leaders who are going to get us all killed will be the first to go.

Gerry: Archie, quit interrupting.

Uzza: Many of the leading Jews of Mecca were tortured before being put to death in the hope they would reveal the location of non-existent buried treasure. One of those who died in agony was a fellow by the name of Kinana who is believed to have been the father of Zaynab, the woman who tried to poison Muhammad. Also beheaded that day were her husband and uncle.

Archie: Another Zaynab.

Uzza: [ignoring him] Zaynab, who was reputed to be the best cook of Khaybar was asked to prepare that fateful meal after all the bloodletting. She put poison in a carcass of lamb, some say it was goat, she prepared for Muhammad and his companions. They all started eating when one of them keeled over dead. Muhammad, who never misses a thing, told everyone to quit eating and called in the cook and asked her point blank why she had poisoned the meat.

Bob: The Prophet knew she had poisoned the meal?

Archie: For Christ's sake Bob, the dead guy was a dead giveaway.

Uzza: Perhaps, but it is not what Muhammad told Zaynab when she asked him how he knew. Muhammad said a leg he held in his hand informed him, but not before he had taken a bite.

Bob: We are taking about a fully cooked leg of lamb?

Archie: Or a goat.

Uzza: The Koran, in its description of Judgement Day, is full of talking limbs, who, what do you say, spill the beans. In this instance, Muhammad may have been speaking metaphorically. Perhaps the taste of the meat was off because of the poison and that is what he meant when he said the meat spoke to him.

Gerry: Muhammad obviously survived the attempt on his life.

Archie: But not the cook, and I do understand why he would have had her killed.

Uzza: But he didn't, maybe!

Archie: What’s with the maybe?

Uzza: One account has Muhammad pardoning her and sending her on her way. In another, she is strangled to death. It is not clear if that is what Muhammad intended. A witness only revealed that Muhammad "ordered regarding her and she was killed."

Archie: It seems clear to me that it is what the Prophet intended, that she be killed.

Uzza: When informed of the murder of the cook, Muhammad said that her killer would not be rewarded for what he did. This indicates to me that he did not intend for her to be killed for the attempt on his life and the murder of at least one companion.

Gerry: Why not give him the benefit of the doubt.

Uzza: Thank you.

Bob: Celebrations over, it's onto Mecca, right?

Uzza: Not just yet. Mecca's morning would have to wait until Muhammad concluded a few more alliances and an opportunity arose to break the Treaty of Hudaibiyah, which the Koran gave him the right to do if he suspected treachery.

Bob: What do you mean by "Mecca's morning"?

Uzza: The believers usually attacked in the morning following the Fajr prayer, the dawn prayer. The signal for the believers to swarm the enemy's defenses was usually Muhammad shouting a warning intended to send shivers down the spines of defenders, in this instance the farmers of Khaybar, "Allahu Akbar! Khaybar is ruined, for whenever we approach a nation then it will be a miserable morning for those who have been warned." And a miserable morning it was.

Bob: Is that why suicide bombers shout out Allahu Akbar; to warn those around them that they are about to ruin their lives and make that of the survivors miserable?

Uzza: When Muhammad said it, it was to instill fear in his enemy before a battle but, in the case of the suicide bomber, I suspect it is more to endear themselves to Allah one last time before they meet Him in person to claim their reward.

Archie: There sure is a lot of sucking up to Allah these days.

Uzza: Unlike at Khaybar.