Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Mohammed the High Jacker Part V - Monotheism Infiltrates Arab Pagan culture

In the last post on this subject, we left off where Mohammed has married Kadijah, his first wife. While Kadijah is considering Mohammed for marriage, she discusses him and her slave's claim of divine intervention of the angels or spirits with her cousin Waraqa.

If you recall, Kadijah claims a "relationship" with Mohammed and further refers to him as "son of my uncle". We are assuming that Kadijah and Mohammed are either cousins by blood or marriage. At the same time, we hear Waraqa referred to as "Kadijah's cousin". This must make Waraqa Mohammed's cousin as well.

In this case, Waraqa replies to Kadijah:

'If this be true, o Khadija, then Muhammad is the prophet of his people. I know that a prophet is expected at this time.'

Either the family isn't particularly close (could be a very large, extended family) or Waraqa decides to support his cousin Mohammed for familial reasons and/or he is in collusion with Mohammed. Whichever it is, Waraqa puts in a good word for Mohammed. He and Kadijah are married.

If you remember, also, Waraqa is designated as a Christian, which is interesting considering the family runs the local pagan worshipping grounds. So, the first thing we need to discover is, how does Waraqa become a Christian? The story goes like this:

Waraqa had been one of the men of the Quraysh known as the 'four inquirers', who had gone in search of the true religion of Abraham.

How does Waraqa even know that he should be searching for the "true religion of Abraham"? His family is pagan. However, they reside in Mecca which has it's fair share of travelers, including some Jewish who are "following the path of Abraham" who is known to have traveled between Ca'anan (Israel/Palestine), Syria, Jordan and parts of Saudi Arabia. It's likely, like Mohammed, Waraqa was exposed to all sorts of cultures. It is during this time that the pagan rituals begin to evolve. Probably from exposure to these monothetic religions:

Some decades earlier the Quraysh had begun to establish the of 'The Hums', which imposed acceptance of Quraysh priority over the other Arab tribes. 'We are the sons of Abraham, men of honour, governors of the house of Allah, inhabitants of Mecca . No Arab has such virtue as we, nor such dignity as we.

The Quraysh are the guardians of the house of worship or Ka'bah. This is Mohammed's tribe and family. Here, they begin to assert their dominance, their special place above the rest of the pagan Arabs who regularly venture to Mecca. The story here seems to imply that, even though they are pagans, they already believe themselves to be the descendents of Abraham. This appears to me a little "artistic license". Based on what I have read, the assertion of Abrahamic descendents really didn't start until AFTER Mohammed began to study the other religions, Judaism and Christianity. This is similar to the early parts of the story insisting that Mohammed already recognized Allah as the one and only God.

Accordingly the Quraysh abandoned certain holy ordinances of pilgrimage enjoined by the religion of Abraham...

Reading on, the Quraysh seem to want to insure their monopoly on worship at the Ka'bah as well as concessions and clothing. Much like a modern day sports arena:

"No man of the Quraysh should honour territory which is secular in the way he honours that which is sacred. For if he does so the Arabs will slight his honour, and will say of the Quraysh, "They have honoured that which is profane [outside the sacred limits] in the same way as that which is sacred [within .The sanctuary of the holy territory of Mecca ]."(...)

But they imposed the ordinances on all other Arabs born either without or within the limits of Mecca .

They next invented new observances for themselves. They announced that it was not proper for the Hums to prepare eqth [milk be dried and reduced to powder], to melt fat, or to enter a camel‑hair tent whilst they were in a state of purity and sanctity [performing the ceremonies of the pilgrimage]. They added even to these rules, saying that persons who had come from outside the sacred city ought not to eat food they had brought in with them, whether they came as pilgrims or visitors. The pilgrims’ first circuit of the Kab a should be made in dress provided by the Hums, or, if such could not be procured, in no dress at all; but rich men or women unwilling to do either could walk around the temple in the garments in which they had arrived, provided they afterwards threw them away and neither touched them any more nor allowed anyone else to touch them. The Arabs were induced to agree to this and made the circuit of the Kaba, the men naked, and the women clad only in an open cassock.

Now they've got it covered in one. But, Waraqa and some friends decide that this is too much. Maybe they are tired of paying so much? Or, they were just good hearted and were disgusted with the rip off of the pilgrims? Maybe, the fact that their religion or worship can change at the drop of hat makes them start questioning if it is true? If the gods really can help them, control the universe, bring miracles? Which ever it is, they begin to question these practices:

One day, when the Quraysh held a festival near one of the stone idols which they honoured, for which they slaughtered sacrifices, near which they assiduously prayed, and around which they walked in procession, four men (one of whom was Waraqa) separated from the rest, saying one to another: 'Will we make a covenant of mutual friendship and protection?' And each said, 'Indeed we will! Our people have no religion! They have lost the religion of their father Abraham! What worth has a stone that it should be walked around, which can neither hear nor see anything, neither hurt nor profit anyone? O ye Quraysh, seek a religion for yourself, for, by Allah, you have none whatever.'

"O ye Quraysh, seek a religion for yourself, for, by Allah, you have none whatever". An interesting phrase, introducing the name of Allah. At this time, remember that there are still 360 gods of the Ka'bah, one of which is the head god, Allah and they are invoking his name in sort of a curse: "by Allah".

The four men spread out and begin seeking their own faith:

Waraqa decided on Christianity and followed the books of its teachers until he had obtained knowledge of the scripture. Ubaydullah remained in doubt until, after the revelation, he made profession of Islam and went to Abyssinia ; but when he arrived there he became a Christian and died thus, after having renounced Islam.

The third, Uthman, went to Byzantium , where he became a Christian and attained high office.

Three of them become Christians. Interesting.

The fourth man seems to remain confused about what religion represented the true Abrahamic religion:

The fourth man, Zayd, became neither Jew nor Christian, although he renounced the religion of the Quraysh and aban­donned idols, blood, and sacrifices slain for idols, and condemned the burying alive of female infants. He said, 'I worship the Lord of Abraham', and, when he was a very old man, was to be seen leaning with his back against the Kaba, saying, 'O ye Quraysh people! I swear by Him in whose hand the life of Zayd is, there is not one among you of the religion of Abraham, except myself. O Allah ! If I knew which way is most pleasing to Thee, I would worship Thee according to it, but I do not know it.

Also interesting, he indicates that the pagans are STILL worshipping idols as he searched, making sacrifices before them and killing their female children. The female children were always looked upon as a burden because the family had to raise and feed them, they weren't able to work in the family business and the family had to provide sizable dowries for them upon marriage. Always an issue with poor tribes.

Of course, Zayd continues his search and, like many before him, he is told that a prophet is coming, by a Christian:

He passed through Mesopotamia, and then wandered through the whole of Syria until he found a monk in whom the knowledge of Christianity was concentrated. Him he asked about the orthodox religion of Abraham, and the monk replied, 'You are in search of a religion to which no one can guide you at present; but the time is at hand when a prophet will arise in your country; he will be sent with the religion of Abraham. Adopt it, for he comes now, and this is the time.'

I find that last part very interesting. Here he meets a Christian monk who, having dedicated his life to Jesus, tells Zayd that his religion is not the "true" religion of Abraham. Would a Christian monk have said that? He then goes on to tell Zayd that another is coming who will lead him (Zayd). In other words, "do as I say and not as I do".

This passage actually serves two purposes:

  1. Mohammed continues to receive credibility by being associated in name or implication with an existing, growing and popular religion.
  2. At the same time, Christianity is denounced as not being the "true" religion by one of it's own followers. Thus, supposedly giving more credence to Mohammed's later claims that only Islam is the true religion of Abraham.

Before Zayd could come back and spread the word about the coming prophet, he dies:

Shortly after this Zayd departed for Mecca , but he was attacked and died by the way.

Maybe I am looking for too much logic in a story, but, how does anyone know that Zayd is told that a new prophet, Mohammed, is about to come forth if he dies before he reaches Mecca? How would Ibn Ishaq know to write that Zayd knew?

In the end, a few important things must be noted:

  • Christianity is spreading
  • Judaism is strong
  • Mecca is awash in businessmen and pilgrims of all religions, exposing all of it's citizens to knew thoughts, not just Mohammed
  • The Quraysh, guardians of the Ka'bah, decide to consolidate their position and finances through control of all aspects of worship there.
  • The Quraysh want to draw in as many worshippers of as many religions as possible so they begin to claim some relationship with Abraham and include some aspects of Judaic worship
  • Waraqa and several friends, obviously exposed to these many cultures already, decide that their religion must be questioned. Possibly because, if it can change so much and be taken over by secular greed, then the gods cannot be true gods.
  • Waraqa and two other friends convert to the ever growing religion of Christianity
  • The fourth, Zayd, still searches and is told by a Christian that another prophet, Mohammed, is coming. Thus giving credence to Mohammed and denouncing Christianity at the same time.

One thing that is missing in the next leg of the story is how Mohammed develops his own religious understanding. The next paragraphs begin discussing Mohammed appearing on the scene of a dispute, already anointed with religious knowledge and ready to be the prophet.

Thus matters stood when Allah sent for Muhammad, His prophet, and revealed to him His religion and the proper usages of the pi grimage

The problem with logical story telling, when one makes a very big deal out of third party characters, they usually have a more profound effect on the story or else, why mention them? But the author of this biography misses that chance and, like Jesus, who disappears from the gospels from the age of 12 to the age of approximately 30, Mohammed appears on the scene at about the age of 35, already anointed the messenger of Allah.

We know that this is not acceptable is the story of Jesus and it is no more acceptable in the story of Mohammed as those intervening years have a large impact on Mohammed. With the emphasis on Waraqa, I think it is safe to assume that he (Waraqa) has an impact on Mohammed.

We will explore that in our next posting.


Sirat Rasoul Allah, Chapter 2


Nas said...

Kat - Not sure if your email works (haven't received any response to a couple) so let me put this in your comments today.

There's an interesting interview with "Walid Shuba" (phonetical spelling as I don't know the exact spelling) from Answering Islam on the 2'nd hour on the Dennis Prager radio show. Each day's show is looped on a stream via the internet for 24 hours until the next day's show if you click on The latest show under Prager's name and picture.

Nas said...

Oops, that should be 'The latest show'