40 100 Years of Conflicts, Conquests and No Muhammad
The second civil war in particular, had a transformative impact on Islamic scriptures and early Islamic history because of the actions of caliphs who decided that looking at the history of Islam and scriptures through a common lens might put an end to the violent disagreements among believers.
Archie: And that lens would be, let me guess, the Prophet.
Uzza: Yes, but I am getting ahead of myself. Why don’t I first tell you about the first civil war. It is key to understanding the second and what came after.
Bob: You can’t talk about war enough.
Uzza: The first Fitna as it is called was a result of the assassination of Uthman, the third successor to Muhammad as leader of the believers, the meaning of caliph. The assassination ignited a bloody war of succession. It ended after another assassination, that of Uthman’s successor Ali by a disgruntled ally who objected to Ali making peace overtures to another challenger for the caliphate, Muawiyah the Governor of Syria. Ali’s eldest son, Hasan, thought it prudent to accept a rich endowment from Muawiyah to abandon his claim to the throne of Muhammad, his grandfather, and the Governor of Syria was proclaimed the new caliph and Damascus became the capital of the caliphate.
Bob: That would mean that two of the Prophet's immediate successors were assassinated.
Uzza: Make that three,. His second successor, Umar was also assassinated.
Gerry: Why all the assassinations?
Uzza: Muhammad, thinking the end of the world would occur in his lifetime or shortly after his death made no provisions for an orderly transition. What would have been the point. In fact, when he died people were literally going mad because Muhammad had said that he would be with them on Judgement Day, shielding them from all the horrible things the Koran said would happen that day. If it had not been for Bakr who quoted a verse that none had ever heard of, that Muhammad was going to die, who knows what would have happened.
Archie: Are you saying he made it up?
Uzza: I did not say that.
Archie: Any other verses that nobody had ever heard that somebody just happened to remember to save the day?
Uzza: If you believe that the Koran is the word of God then the verse about making the Persians a people of the Book is not something that somebody made up to save the day, but a revelation from a god who could see when such a verse would come in handy.
Bob: I did not know the Persian believed in the Bible.
Uzza: Not the Bible, the Avesta which provided Allah, or whoever remembered the verse, reason to stop killing them and getting them to accept Muslim rule.
Gerry: Why is there any doubt that this verse was not part of the original Koran?
Uzza: Muhammad's obsession was with the Byzantine who stood in the way of getting to Dabiq before Judgement Day. A verse which made the followers of Zoroaster a people of the Book would not have been necessary during his lifetime which would see the world come to end.
Bob: But it didn't!
Uzza: Which is why some have suggested that the Koran's message was modified from "repent the end of the world is at hand" to "conquer the world and I will bring it to an end and welcome you into Paradise" to reflect this new reality.
Bob: What has all this to do with the Koran making the Persian a people of the Book.
Uzza: Because there should not have been a need for it. The believers invaded Persia proper in 642, ten years or so after Muhammad's death and the anticipated end of times.
Archie: I get it. But what I still don't get, is why was it necessary to make the Persians a people of the Book.
Uzza: No matter how many Persians the believers slaughtered − the rivers, it was reported, running red with their blood − the Persians refused to submit until this verse was found that declared they too were a people of the Book, the Avesta would have to do, and subject to the same life-saving conditions as the Jews and Christians. As happened in Egypt, in only a few generations of being bombarded with the good news most became believers.
Bob: When did the Muslims invade Egypt?
Uzza: In keeping with this doctrine of conquer the world in the name Allah, the believers invaded Egypt in 639. Unlike the Persian campaign, it was an easy victory thanks to our friend Muqawqis who was also head of the Coptic Church. He did not care for the brand of Christianity Byzantine wanted to impose on the Copts and thought he could get a better deal from the believers.
Archie: What a fool!
Uzza: The believers said the Copts could continue to practice whatever brand of Christianity they wanted as long a they paid the Jizya. With that assurance, Muqawqis told his flock to offer no resistance to the invaders allowing a small army of 4,000 or so who were later joined by Bedouins as it became evident that Egypt was ripe for plundering. As happened in Persia, once the believers were in charge it was only a matter of time before the Coptic Christians who were the vast majority at the time of the conquest were seduced by the good news and are now in danger of disappearing altogether.
Bob: Talk about not knowing who your friends are.
Uzza: Allah warned us to only take other believers as friends and be wary of unbelievers. It is advice that has stood the community in good stead.
Gerry: If the Muslims were all friends, why the civil wars?
Uzza: The Americans considered their southern compatriots friends, but that did not stop them from fighting a bloody civil war.
Archie: One, not two. What was the second disagreement among friends that they had to fight another war?
Uzza: Not unlike the American Civil War, the second Fitna, while also a war of succession, was also a war between North and South; and not unlike the American Civil war, the North won. And, like the American Civil War, the winner tried to find common ground, and that common ground was Muhammad and a Koran that set the believers further apart from the people of the Book.
Archie: Who was unhappy with the guy in charge this time around?
Uzza: A condition of Hasan agreeing to Muawiyah becoming caliph was that he would not name his son as successor, leaving the door open for another son of Ali, Husayn, to seek the caliphate.
Archie: And he didn't do that. What else is new.
Uzza: Muawiyah appointed his son Yazid as his successor. When he died, a Medinan chieftain by the name of al-Zubayr encouraged Husayn to challenge Yazid. He was defeated at the infamous battle of Karbala in 680 and he and his family were beheaded.
Bob: Someone dared to execute the grandson of the Prophet. That took guts.
Uzza: Stupidity is more like it. What should have been an unforgivable sacrilege was quickly followed by the pillage of Medina and desecration of the mosque founded by Muhammad. Yazid then marched on Mecca. During the assault, the Ka'ba was burnt to the ground.
Archie: This is priceless. Today, an innocent cartoon of the Prophet can get you killed. A few decades after his death, pretenders to his legacy murdered three members of his family, ransacked the city where he died, attacked the city of his birth almost obliterating what was to become the holiest shrine of Islam, the Ka'ba; and not only got away with it, but were rewarded with the caliphate for their efforts.
Uzza: You have to understand, for the believers of the North, those places did not matter. Even Mecca did not matter that much. In the Koran, it is mentioned only once, and you have to believe the scholars when they say that Bakka means Mecca and not some other place.
Bob: But the Prophet today is everywhere.
Uzza: But not then. Then Muhammad was just another doomsday prophet of which many roamed the Middle East. What differentiated him from the other soothsayers of his day was the Book and its reputed author, God, that drove the Muslim invaders. They conquered not in the name of any prophet, but in the name of Allah.
Bob: Then, why today does a cartoon of a guy that been dead for more than a thousand years get you getting killed?
Uzza: That was al-Malik's doing.
Bob: Al who?