Remembering Uzza

41 Birth of a Cult

(3.1 draft)

UzzaUzza: al-Malik was the son of Marwan the fifth Umayyad caliph. He would put and end to al-Zubayr's aspirations and redefined what it meant to be a believer by borrowing an idea from the man he defeated, a second Shahadah.

Bob: What is a shahadah?

Uzza: A declaration of faith, what you profess to believe in. What the early believers professed to believe in was that there was only one god.

Bob: That is what Jews and Christians also believe isn't it?

Uzza: Yes. That is why, like the Jews of Medina, they did not perceive the believers as much of a threat and vice versa and why, for the most part, were well treated by the believers as demonstrated by Muhammad at Tabuk.

Gerry: What about the part of the Shahadah where Muhammad is the Messenger of God?

Uzza: That was added later. It may have been al-Zubayr's idea. At least he was the first to make it official by issuing a coin during the Second Fitna on which was stamped what has been called the second Shahadah, a declaration that Muhammad is the Messenger of Allah. Al-Malik adopted both the coinage and the saying perhaps as a way of telling the believers in the south that the believers in the north believed the same thing. Al-Malik was a practical man, he may have also added the second Shahadah so that Jews and Christians could not avoid paying the jizya by repeating the Shahadah about there being only one god when asked to so.

Bob: By pretending to be Muslims.

Uzza: But they were not pretending, they all believed in the same god, the one and only.

Gerry: The addition of the second Shahadah is how we got the cult of the Prophet Muhammad?

Uzza: It laid the foundation. The full-blown cult of Muhammad would be born out of necessity. Allah said that the Koran contained an answer to everything. For a small book by holy book standards, made smaller by constant repetitions, it was quite the boast. When it came to governing an empire it would prove an idle one. It would be left to the Abbasids dynasty which overthrew the Umayyad in 750 or so, in another war of succession referred to as the Third Fitna to come up with a comprehensive system of precedents that would guide and expand on the administration of rule by the Book.

Gerry: Precedents, that is a Western Legal tradition.

Uzza: Precedents in Islamic Law are based on the unchanging example and sayings of Muhammad and therefore not subject to the whims of changing times and mores as are precedents in Western jurisprudence.

Archie: Who decided that the life of one man would serve as precedent in everthing?

Uzza: Allah said so, but it was the second Abbasid caliph Al-Mansur who wanted his son to read about the life of Muhammad, only to be told that no such written account existed, who got people interested in the man whom Allah praises as a good example to follow.

Archie: Your kidding. The guy had been dead, let me guess, for about a hundred years, and nobody could be bothered to tell his story. Maybe you were right, the guy was a nobody.

Uzza: I did not say that. Let me finish. With the possible exception of what the Koran has to say, the letter to Muqawqis and a letter of caliph Umar II in 718 or thereabouts to the Byzantine emperor Leo III in which he brags about how Muhammmad led his followers out of Arabia "to fight against the largest empires", there is no contemporary Muslim accounts of Muhammad's life, how he died or what came after for about one hundred years.

Gerry: You told us that the Prophet had his own scribe and the Jews were well known to write down anything and everything.

Uzza: Yes, and when al-Malik asked for more or less the same thing as Al-Mansur he was provided with letters by the first cleric known to have written about the life of Muhammad, another Zubayr by the name of Urwa Ibn al-Zubayr.

Gerry: And where are those letters now?

Uzza: They did not survive, just like the first ever biography of Muhammad which was commissioned by Al Mansur when informed that no such biography existed.

Archie: What was wrong with the first one?

Uzza: The first one was written by a highly respected historian, even by Western standards, by the name of Ibn Ishaq. Ishaq was a controversial figure, in part, because he approached his subject in much the same way a modern historian would by considering all information available, including the testimony of Christians and Jewish converts which his detractors dismissed out-of-hand as not as reliable as that of Arab converts or those born into the faith.

Bob: If what he wrote no longer exist how do we know what he wrote?

Uzza: Because of the next person who was asked to do a proper biography of Muhammad, a fellow by the name of ibn Hisham. Hisham would suppress any information that was unfavourable to Muhammad. He transformed what Ishaq wrote into a panegyric whose contribution to the elevation of a covetous, insular god-fearing man into the personification of the perfect human. Hisham's reworked biography of Ishaq has "achieved canonical status and the immunity from criticism that comes from being elevated to the equivalent of holy writ."

Archie: What you're saying is that when people are told to shut up or die it is to preserve this Hisham's sham biography.

Uzza: A panegyric is not a sham.

Bob: What is a panegyric anyway?

Gerry: You've heard the expression about not speaking ill of the dead?

Bob: Yes.

Gerry: Think of a panegyric as a eulogy, as mostly undeserved praise or praise that leaves out the naughty and nasty bits.

Bob: But, if most of what Uzza has told us about the Prophet comes from this sham biography, it did not leave out the nasty bit like the killing, the stealing and the raping.

Gerry: Haven't you been listening. Those were not nasty bits, they were praiseworthy because it was stuff done to unbelievers.

Bob: That is crazy!

Archie: You took the words right out of my mouth.

Uzza: If you think that is crazy... Maybe I should not say anymore about Hisham's masterpiece.

Gerry: What is there left to tell?

Uzza: Hisham's biography of Muhammad, in Arabic his As-sirah Nabawiyyah gives credence to myths that further defined Muhammad as special, such as how he was cleans of the impurity Satan placed on his heart while he was still in the womb.

Archie: I knew it, Muhammad is the devil's own.

Uzza: Then you too are the devil's own Archie, for we are all born with this impurity.

Bob: How did they remove this thing, open heart surgery?

Uzza: Exactly.

Bob: Huh...

Uzza: Hisham writes that when Muhammad was a boy he was visited by two men in white, angels are assumed, carrying a bowl of snow. They broke opened his chest "took out his heart and extracted a black pebble which they threw away then washed the heart and body with the snow" before returning it to his body and closing it.

Archie: Like I said before, Muslims will believe anything.

Uzza: I heard you the first time, and the second time.

Gerry: A declaration on coinage about your special relationship with God and a biography that makes you out to be anything but an ordinary person would definitely be enough to achieve cult status.

Uzza: But it wasn't. What would make Muhammad a figure revered as much if not more than Allah, something he never intended, was that Hisham's panegyric would lead to every moment of his existence his every word, his every action to be concretize into invariable precedents in law on par with what Allah revealed in the Koran if it did not contradict what was in the Book. Unassailable precedents which outnumber Allah's revelations by more than two to one.

Gerry: Cult figures are often remembered for the way they died. Remember Jesus.

Uzza: Muhammad's demise was definitely not as spectacular as Jesus’, a slight-of-hand spectacle engineered by Allah. Nonetheless, his death, what he did and said before he died, has been an inspiration for the believers to this day and another reason they are triumphing over Jesus' supporters everywhere .

Bob: When did the Prophet die?

Uzza: He died just over a year and a half after his return from Tabuk. During that time he married the youthful Asma, his thirteenth or fourteenth wife depending on who's doing the counting.

Bob: That's my boy!

Gerry: How did he die?

Uzza: The official version is that he died from the minute amount of poison he may have ingested at Khaybar a few years earlier.

Archie: That is one slow acting poison. Who arrived at that dubious conclusion?

Uzza: Aisha said that during his agony, her husband told her that the pain he felt was like the one he experienced at Khaybar after taking a bite from the poisoned meat.

Gerry: Similar symptoms do not mean identical causes and didn't one of his dining companions die then and there indicating that it was not a slow acting poison.

Uzza: Muhammad had made his peace with the Jews, as Tabuk is a witness, so don't believe a word of that piece of contrived history about the Jews being complicit in his passing. In fact, stories still circulated more than hundred years after his death about how he died. Stories which made it into the collection of the renown hadith collector Bukhari and are part of the Sunni cannon. Stories stories about Muhammad falling off whatever he was riding and appearing for the last time at prayers favouring a left shoulder which was covered up and oily bandage around his head. These authenticated accounts of the last days of Muhammad would indicate that his death was the result of an accident and the Jews had nothing to do with it.

Gerry: Didn't Muhammad curse the Jews with his dying breath?

Uzza: Muhammad cursed both the Jews and Christian in what may have been his next to last breath and it had nothing to do with either one being party to his demise. It was to warn the believers not to do what Christians and Jews did and that is built monuments to their prophet. This is why, to this day, you won't find any equivalent testimonial to the memory of Muhammad.

Bob: When you said the Prophet did not intend to become a cult figure I now believe you.

Archie: What were the guy's last words?

Uzza: His last words were to ask Allah to welcome him to the highest level of Paradise and before that, to protect him from those who blow in knotted reeds.

Bob: Who are these people who blow in reeds?

Uzza: "Those who blow in knotted reeds" is what Allah calls witches and the likes.

Bob: The Prophet believed in witches?

Uzza: Muhammad was a product of his age, the Dark Ages when irrational beliefs, superstitions and unfounded fears overwhelmed common sense and reason.

Archie: Did you just admit that the Koran is not Allah's doing?

Uzza: I did no such thing. I don't believe in witches but that does not mean they do not exist.

Archie: That still does not explain why the Prophet would want to be protected from witches when he was about to be welcomed into Paradise.

Uzza: Muhammad did not die a martyr so there was no escaping life in the grave when he may have feared those who blow in reeds might be able to pay him a visit.