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Islam Is Repackaged Polytheism: Documentation

Islam, Beliefs And Observances, Caesar E. Farah, p2-7, 26-35

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Islam: Truth or Myth? start page



Islam, Beliefs And Observances, Caesar E. Farah, p2-7, 26-35


Muslims evolved basic philosophical and religious concepts that shared the fundamentals of Islam and added luster and richness to their way of life. Unrestrained by dogmatism, Muslims readily engaged themselves in the pursuits of philosophy, literature, science, mathematics, and astronomy, converting their chief cities from Spain to Central Asia into the foci of a brilliant civilization when Europe for the most part was experiencing a period of cultural arrestation.

Hence in projecting our study of Islam we can not achieve a meaningful understanding of the religion without giving some consideration to its institutional and cultural facets. All three aspects of Islam shaped what may be termed "the system of Islam" and assured the triumph and efflorescence of the faith. The study also requires relating the forces which for centuries had a molding effect on the religion as it evolved from a simple set of elementary beliefs to an all-encompassing complex framework of theological reference. It is equally necessary for us to draw attention to powerful forces of attraction which enabled Islamic society to cohere and withstand disruption under strong pressure. Pride in belonging to a unifying faith coupled with the spirit engendered thereby contributed to the social solidarity and cultural development of the believers in Islam.

But this commonly shared pride did not always succeed in safeguarding the socio-religious solidarity of the Muslims. Such breaches as disrupted the cohesiveness of Islam will be given due consideration as we follow the fluctuations in its historical career through alternating phases of accomplishment and decline.

For a number of centuries the Muslim East and the Christian West confronted each other across the length and breadth of the Mediterranean basin. Sometimes their relations were characterized by peaceful and fruitful exchanges; quite often both sides viewed each other with antipathy and indifference punctured by frequent conflicts. Generally, neither the Muslim nor the Christian world appeared to be aware of the fundamental religious precepts they shared in common, derived as they were from the common fount of Judaic and Hellenic beliefs. Not many Christians today, for instance, are aware of the fact that Muhammad, the messenger of Islam, believed Jesus and Moses to be the most important bearers of God's one hallowed message to His people as enshrined in the Testaments and the Torah. Indeed, to millions of Christians for hundreds of years Muhammad was an object of contempt; certainly in no way did he command the respect which his followers accorded Jesus, whose position of deference in the holy book of Islam is permanently assured.

Until recent scholarship began to strip Islam of the prejudicial views surrounding it, the Western world, at the very best, had contented itself with a distorted understanding of one of mankind's significant living religions. Geographical proximity and frequent exchanges notwithstanding, the Christian accused the Muslim of worshiping a "false prophet." To the follower of Christ the follower of Muhammad was a blasphemer who would not figure in God's great design, or in the salvation reserved for the faithful believers in Jesus. Indeed, in the eyes of the Christians Islam was synonymous with "Mohammedanism," with its false implication of being a system of belief founded upon the worship of the person "Mohammed" (Muhammad). Yet nothing is more repugnant to the devout Muslim than to be called a "Mohammedan"; from the point of view of his religion, to accord devotional respect to any being other than Allah, God of the Worlds, of Christians and Jews, is to commit the major unpardonable sin.

The term Islam in the lexicon of the Arabs means "Submission" to God. The religion of Islam is the religion of submission to the will of the omnipotent and omniscient Creator, the only God, who admits of no associates in the worship of Him. In the eyes of the believers, Muhammad, like Abraham, Moses, and Jesus, is a prophet of God. But unlike the Christian conception of Jesus, Muhammad is not regarded as divine; to the believers in him he is a mortal who was called upon by God to deliver His eternal message to the unbelieving Arabs, as Moses had delivered it to the Hebrews and Jesus to the rest of mankind.

Muhammad lived, preached, and died in the full light of history. Countless millions since the time of his death in 632 have paid homage to him as they journey far and wide to reach his burial place in Medina.

Distortions prejudicing the western conceptions of Islam may be dated to the earliest centuries, but particularly from the period of the Crusades, when Christian Europe's hostility for the people and their religion crystallized. The church fathers treated Islam as a heresy; Muslims were infidels; Muhammad a "renegade bishop," an "impostor," who rebelled against the central mission of Christ. Dante ranked the prophet of Islam low among the ill-fated occupants of the Inferno. Christian authors in subsequent times held him in no better regard. In his Vie de Mahomet (Life of Muhammad), published at the end of the seventeenth century, the French writer Prideaux held Muhammad up as a mirror to "unbelievers, atheists, deists and libertines." To the irreligiously inclined Voltaire, the prophet of Deism, Muhammad was the fount of fanaticism. The more generous Abbe Maracci regarded Islam as a distorted extension of Christianity while he begrudgingly conceded in his Latin translation of the Qur'an (Koran), the sacred book of Islam, that "this religion contains many elements of natural truth evidently borrowed from the Christian religion, which seems to be in accordance with the law and light of nature."

Early attempts to place Islam and its messenger in a more objective framework of reference were few and far between. Late in the eighteenth century, a Dutch professor of theology at the University of Utrecht came to the conclusion that "no religion has been more calumniated than Islam." The noted English scholar George Sale spent 'long arduous hours translating the Qur'an into English, seeking to obtain a deeper insight into the real meaning of the message of Islam. In the preliminary discourse he brought out the point that "there is no false doctrine that does not contain some truth."

With such scholars paving the way, systematic attempts aimed at casting light upon the falsities surrounding the Christian view of Islam were in full evidence by the 1830's. Henceforth scholars, mostly German Orientalists, began to examine Islam from a detached point of view shorn of preconceived notions and assumptions.

That these scholars were inclined to view Islam in a more favorable light is evident in the testimony of Professor Weil: "In so far as he brought the most beautiful teachings of the Old and New Testament to a people which was not illuminated by one ray of faith, he may be regarded, even by those who are not Mohammedans, as a messenger of God." Other reputable Orientalists de Pergeval, Lammens, Caetani, Muir, Noldeke pioneered works on Muhammad and Islam that have since their time become classical for their authoritativeness. It was largely through their efforts that we witness the gradual lifting of the veil of tendentious fiction and emotional bias that had blurred the European's vision of Islam. This trend towards an objective understanding of Islam in its multiple facets has persisted, both in Europe and the United States, up to the present time.

Major breakthroughs in the area of communications have drawn the peoples of the world into closer contacts. There is more interest, and a greater awareness, in the cultural values and institutional beliefs of non-Westerners. To be sure a great deal of this interest derives from a superficial observation, largely through sightseeing tours of the exotic cities of Islam Cairo, Tangier, Baghdad, Damascus, Istanbul; but a lot of it is engendered also by need. The oil of Arabia is as alluring to the Western companies that exploit and market it as the bazaars of Cairo to the American tourist. The entire history of the post World War II era is replete with incidents that have focused .attention on the strategic importance of the Muslim world, particularly in the East West struggle. Scholars, technicians, diplomats, and the average citizens of the Western world, all from their varying points. of interest, have demonstrated the need for a more positive understanding of the vital significance of the Islamic world, its peoples, institutions, and beliefs.

As curiosity arouses interest and interest leads to inquiry, and as the scholar begins to examine more closely the whole posture of Islam in its historical and environmental contexts, the Western reader begins to appreciate the reasons for a systematic study of Islam.

In the first place there are over five hundred million people today who adhere to the religion of Islam. Not only do they represent all the known races of mankind, but they inhabit a nearly contiguous stretch of land from the shores of the Atlantic in the West to the confines of China and Malaysia in the East. Geographically, the followers of Muhammad are concentrated in North Africa, the regions of the Near and Middle East, Soviet Central Asia, western China, the Malayan peninsula, northern and central India, Indonesia, and the Philippines. In more recent decades the Muslims have gained a wide following south of the Sahara in the very heart of Negro Africa. One out of every seven human beings today subscribes to the faith of Islam; he lives within a social structure largely the product of Islam, and he is guided in his daily life by norms and precepts forged in the caldron of Islam.

Secondly, the role of Islam in regulating the affairs of the believer can not be overlooked. On an average the Muslim invokes the name of Allah (God) no less than twenty times a day. No other known prophet of a monotheistic religion receives as much mention in prayer as the Prophet of Islam. More children bear Muhammad's name than any other name popular to mankind. No known body of sacred literature is as thoroughly and systematically committed to memory, or is recited as frequently, as the holy book of Islam. At certain prescribed times of the day from atop a minaret in the towns, hamlets, and cities of Islam, the voice of the muezzin rings out in clear melodious Arabic the call to prayer. Spontaneously, devotees everywhere turn in the direction of Mecca, birthplace of Islam and its perpetual shrine, to perform the ritual prayer as established in the days of Muhammad. If by some magical flight an outsider could transplant himself into the midst of the faithful during the noon hour prayer on the day of congregation in any given mosque, he would behold lines upon lines of Muslims representing the major races of mankind performing in unison, and according to prescribed form, the same prostrations and genuflections and uttering the same prayer to Allah, in Arabic, regardless of their native tongues.

Thirdly, it would be difficult to observe a more thorough manifestation of devotion to God than is evinced by the followers of Islam. No other religion appears to inculcate as much dependence on God in the trivia of daily life; nor does God figure so centrally among other religious groups in the ups and downs of ordinary living. Indeed, no task, commitment, performance, journey, or repose, however minute or momentous, pleasurable or unpleasurable, is undertaken without the involvement of Allah. No blessing or bounty of any sort is received except through the grace of Allah. Misfortunes are endured with passivity and resignation, but faith in Allah remains unwavering as it is His sole prerogative to bestow or withhold as He sees fit. From early dawn until sunset in the month of fasting which according to the lunar calendar observed can be unusually lengthy the devotee consumes no food or drink and indulges in no carnal acts which may constitute ritual defilement of the body.

When thousands of pilgrims continuously stream to Arabia on the annual pilgrimage, they observe for themselves the strong bonds at work in gathering them together from all parts of the world. These are the bonds of Islam, equating all Muslims regardless of race or nationality, economic or social status. As a symbol of their equality in Islam, the believers, shed the attire of daily life for a plain white linen cloth worn by all, preparatory to entering the sanctuary of Islam in a state of ritual purity. This manifestation of egalitarianism can be attributed to the sense of unity in faith for which the religion of Islam is directly responsible. The leveling force of Islam has not ceased to attract to the faith the downtrodden of humanity with the same power of appeal that gained it the loyalty of Arabians and non-Arabians in earlier centuries. Through conversion abetted by the expansion of the polity, Islam grew steadily in stature until it came to enjoy the rank of a major world religion that still attracts converts to its fold.

Unity in belief accounts for the unusual display of solidarity in Islamic society and for the dynamism which propelled the faith forward. Pride in faith explains the accomplishments of the believers not only in religion, but in the areas of political and cultural endeavors as well. The historical development of Islam in all of its facets reflects its power of appeal; this appeal has been decisive in winning over to the religion the inhabitants of Africa in the face of strong competition from Christianity.


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Rhetorical oratory and poetry constituted for the Bedouin a dearly cherished source of aesthetic pleasure. He was easily swayed by the power of speech and rhythm and aroused beyond compare by the eloquence of his tongue. Hence poetry and oratory provided the best incitement to valorous deeds on the battlefield. The Qur'an preserves the rhetorical wealth of the Arab's pre-Islamic heritage; indeed, rhetorical oratory proved itself a strong energizing force in times of war. He who commanded the right word at a crucial moment could bring victory to his tribe. Poetry served as a weapon of "psychological warfare" aimed at demoralizing the enemy through derision. But such powers of eloquence were not for all to share and employ: they were gifts of the spirits (jinn).

Cultivated as an art, poetry had the effect of strengthening the Arab's consciousness of a separate identity attributed to a lofty ancestry that transcended tribal affiliations. In this context, a properly uttered poetic expression served as a rallying force in an otherwise divided society. This is particularly manifest in the manner whereby during the months of truce which prevailed over Arabia, thousands of tribesmen converged on the fair of `Ukaz at Mecca, not only to barter their ware but also to match poetic wit. Each vied with the other for the prize of having his poetic composition adjudged the best, as this meant that it would be suspended from the side of the Ka`bah. This deep reverence for the powers of speech can be vividly traced in the mass of literary works of all types produced by the cultural efflorescence of Islam. Indeed, the reader would be hard put not to find poetic verse embellishing the pages of a scientific treatise or a historical narrative.


But of most relevance to any study of Islam in its essential function as a religious force is to establish its relations to the religion, or religions, of pre-Islamic Arabia. Islam, like Judaism and Christianity, is indebted for certain basic conceptual institutional and ritualistic ideas and practices to the rudiments of the Semitic religions has observed, "No positive religion that has moved men has been able to start with a tabula rasa, and express itself as if religion were beginning for the first time . . . A new scheme of faith can find a hearing only by appealing to religious instincts and susceptibilities that already exist in its audience . . ."

Certain deities and cultic rituals associated with the simple animistic, then daimonic, worship of the early inhabitants survived in a transformed and highly sophisticated version in the three great monotheistic religions. Tribal deities like Allah and Jehovah, sanctified stones and springs such as the Blackstone of the Ka`bah (Kaaba), the well of Zamzam, Bethel of the Old Testament, the ritual prayer, the offering of blood sacrifices to the deity, the pilgrimage, and numerous rites not all of which were absorbed were popular in the period of Arabian history before Islam, which the Muslims term "Jahiliyah," and became consecrated in Islam and its kindred religions.

The idea that the deity may reveal itself to the select, as Jehovah revealed himself to Jacob in a dream at Bethel, Jesus to Paul on the road to Damascus, and Allah to Muhammad through the intermediation of Gabriel in a cave outside Mecca, is familiar to earlier Semites. As a matter of fact, in the anthropomorphic state of worship revelation was indispensable to the formalization of relationships between man and his god, as was the cementing of ties ensuing therefrom by a sacrificial ritual. The concept of blood ties, of man, to man and man to his god, whereby tribal affiliation is sanctified and the deity assumes the status of patron and ancestral lord to the tribe, developed from such premises. And as the deity was believed to favor the locality where it revealed itself, the tribe converted the place into a sanctuary and instituted a pattern of periodic revisitation to offer homage. The Ka'bah in Mecca eventually became the supreme sanctuary in pre-Islamic Arabia, served its status in Islam as well.

The tribes of Arabia selected for their deities those which best reflected their distinguishing characteristics and aspirations; the Semites, whether of the desert or town variety, literally created their gods in their own images. The mood and temperament of the god was a reflection of the worshiper's attitude. There were hundreds of such deities in pagan Arabia; the Ka'bah alone at one time housed three hundred and sixty-seven of them. Of all those mentioned in the Qur'an, four appeared to be most popularly revered on the eve of Islam, al`-Uzzah (power), al-Lat (the goddess), and Manah (fate); all three female deities, popularly worshiped by the tribes of the Hijaz, were regarded as the daughters of Allah (the god) who headed the Arabian pantheon when Muhammad began to preach.

Allah, the paramount deity of pagan Arabia, was the target of worship in varying degrees of intensity from the southernmost tip of Arabia to the Mediterranean. To the Babylonians he was "Il" (god); to the Canaanites, and later the Israelites, he was "El"., the South Arabians worshipped him as "Ilah," and the Bedouins as "al-Ilah" (the deity). With Muhammad he becomes Allah, God of the Worlds, of all believers, the one and only who admits of no associates or consorts in the worship of Him. Judaic and Christian concepts of God abetted the transformation of Allah from a pagan deity to the God of all monotheists. There is no reason, therefore, to accept the idea that "Allah" passed to the Muslims from Christians and Jews.

Jewish Settlements

Muhammad was in contact with Jews in Yathrib (Medina) with whom he disputed theologically but later broke for political reasons. During this brief period of exchanges he acquired a number of ritualistic concepts from them but the influence of strictly Jewish beliefs is still under debate.

Although the presence of Jewish tribes in Arabia dates back to 1200B.C.when the Rachel tribes, spent their wandering years in Sinai and al-Nufud, it was not until the first Christian century following the second unsuccessful uprising against the Romans in 132-135 A.D. that an influx of Jewish tribes and some proselytizing among Bedouins brought them into the Hijaz. On the eve of Islam they had come into possession of some of the best land in the oases of Tayma', Khaybar and Yathrib; in Yathrib alone they constituted nearly one half the population.

Knowledge of superior agricultural techniques, monopoly over important commodities of trade, like iron (used in making arms, coats of mail and agricultural tools), resulted in their control of the rich oases and the important trade fairs of Tayma' and Yathrib. Not only did the Quraysh of Mecca resent their economic ascendance, but the Aws and Khazraj, rivals of the Jewish tribes in Yathrib, engaged in a long feud with them for control of the palm tree plantations in the neighboring oases. It was to resolve their perennial dispute that they invited Muhammad to come to Yathrib and serve as mediator; this, as we shall see, was of important consequence to the development of the Islamic polity and crystallization of Islamic institutions.

Although the presence of the Jewish settlements in Arabia did not materially influence the development of Islamic concepts, it did, on the other hand, affect the political destiny of the Himyarites. It was allegedly a certain abu-Kirib As'ad Kamil, king of Yaman during Himyarite rule, who first adopted the Jewish faith early in the fifth century A.D. His last successor dhu-Nuwas embarked on the policy of forcible conversion which led to the Abyssinian invasion and ended the possibility of Judaism becoming firmly rooted in this important corner of Arabia at a time when Muhammad was about to preach the religion of submission to Allah.

Christian Elements

The Christian settlements in Arabia during this crucial period left perhaps less of an impact on the development of Islam, principally because the chief Christian centers were on the periphery of the peninsula: in Najran north of Yaman, in Syria, and Hirah in lower Iraq. There was a minor settlement in Mecca consisting of caravan leaders, monks, merchants from Syria, curers, healers, doctors, dentists, smiths, carpenters, scribes, Christian women married into the Quraysh, and slaves from Mesopotamia, Egypt, Syria, and Byzantium sold in the market place of the town.

Bedouins of the Hijaz on their caravan journeys to Syria and other Christian centers undoubtedly carried back with them a superficial knowledge of Christian beliefs and customs. Dissident Christian sects, mostly of the Monophysite confession, and numerous monks turned ascetics had their retreats in the steppes of north Arabia along caravan routes. As a caravan leader, Muhammad is supposed to have befriended a Christian monk, Babira; it is said that he even wore tunics which were the gifts of other Christian monks. Two Christianized Arab tribes, Judham and `Udhra, roamed the Hijaz. According to local tradition, there were even Christian religious artifacts in the Ka`bah at Mecca.

It is not unlikely that Muhammad may have exchanged religious views with monks, even with Christians who possessed some formal knowledge of Christian theology. Jacobites and Nestorians. are known to have conducted active missionary activities among the pagan tribes of Arabia; indeed, priests and deacons were assigned to each tribe, and in Najran the Monophysites had established churches which, when persecuted by dhu-Nuwas, invited Abyssinian intervention. Monasteries astride caravan routes were open day and night to traveling caravans and roaming Bedouins. Here, besides receiving food and shelter, they undoubtedly had occasion to 'observe such practices as praying, fasting, and alms giving three of the five basic injunctions of Islam. The Nestorians had established schools and some churches in many of the towns frequented by Arab tribesmen of the Hijaz.

When Muhammad began his summons to Islam, Christians were involved in deep theological disputes, not the least of which was over the use of icons, a dispute which culminated in the celebrated iconoclastic controversy in Christianity. Some Christians in South Arabia were accused in the Qur'an of having departed from the basic tenets of their faith. Such dissensions, coupled with the fact that the Bedouin Arabian, even in the judgment of the Qur'an, was notoriously inclined to irreligion, could not have disturbed materially the few religious convictions of the Arabs before the preachings of Muhammad.

Evidence of Transformation

Be that as it may, socioeconomic trends long current in Arabian society appeared to converge in the Hijaz, and specifically at Mecca, when Muhammad emerged on the scene. The mustering of economic power through control of transit trade and the housing of pagan deities in the Ka`bah under their supervision gave the Quraysh an enviable position of influence and contributed to their rising status. Mecca had become the center of pilgrimage and the hub of economic life in West Arabia.

To encourage the flow of pilgrims and trade, the Qurayshites concluded pacts with various tribes securing the inviolability of transients and pilgrims. The Ka`bah and the area surrounding it were declared haram ("forbidden," i.e., to warfare); within a general mile radius from it no blood might be spilled. With their economic power ever on the increase, the Qurayshite oligarchy ruling Mecca deliberately kept extending the haram to assure the stability of social relations in a zone crucial to trade; and in order to enhance the inviolability of their area, Meccan traders ringed the Ka'bah with the idols of other tribes.

The rise of "Allah" to prominence in the pantheon at Mecca was commensurate with the rising status of the Quraysh. The pagans in and around Mecca at an earlier date had already considered him the supreme deity. The attributes associated with "Allah" before Islam, namely his being regarded as creator of the world and lord guardian of contractual obligations of the wayfarer and fate, were preserved in the Islamic conception of him. That he enjoyed a high status during this period is evident in the deference accorded him by certain Christians and non-Christians, like the Sabians and the Magians, who regarded Allah as a deity and even implored their indigenous gods to intercede with him on their behalf. The Sabians not only made ritualistic sacrifices to Allah and sent offerings to the Ka`bah, but even regarded their astral gods as "companions of Allah." Perhaps it is owing to this recognition of Allah that the Muslims later extended their protection to both Sabians and Magians even though they did not strictly qualify as possessors of scriptures in the same context as Christians and Jews.

What is of significance to the mission of Islam is the trend toward socio-religious centralization in Meccan society on the eve of the advent of Muhammad. While laboring to establish and safeguard their economic ascendancy, the merchant oligarchy of Qurayshites, ruling Mecca brought about a transformation of values, most important being the establishment of security under law in lieu of kinship. Thus when Muhammad preached social unity and solidarity on the basis of Islam, he was exploiting a trend already in evidence. In the area of the haram a stranger was afforded protection because of the sanctity it enjoyed. The support of a native patron would be called upon only when an injustice was perpetrated against the stranger. To be born or to sojourn in the sanctified environment of the Ka'bah gave non-Qurayshite Arabs precedence over others.

Such extra privileges as were obtainable in Mecca encouraged Arab tribesmen to forsake their local shrines for the Ka'bah in Mecca, thus contributing to the growing centralization of worship there.. What was happening in effect is that an increasing number of Arabs were discarding tribal ties as a means of protection for the jiwar (protection) of the Ka`bah where Allah reigned supreme. As more and more non-kin Arabs banded in the jiwar of the haram, the prestige of Allah as patron grew concomitantly; so did his functions and responsibility toward his followers "as the guardian of faith and the avenger of treason"; in his name tribesmen were to "fulfill their contracts, honor their relatives by oath, and feed their guests."

Of paramount importance to the development of the central socio-religious function of Allah in Islam as an equalizer and a force of solidarity was this pre-Islamic institution in Mecca. When rights and obligations, hitherto unrecognized outside membership in the tribe, became extra-familial or extra-tribal in the jiwar of the haram, it was the prerogative, if not indeed the responsibility, of Allah to serve as imposer and guarantor. When Muhammad called upon all Qurayshites to forsake the idols and place all their faith in Allah, it was not the novelty of the preaching as much as the fear of economic loss from having to abandon guardianship over the Ka`bah, home of the idols of pagan Arabia and the target of the profitable pilgrimage as well as an all round stimulant of trade, that impelled them to resist him, even by force.

What is of relevance to our understanding of the new socio-religious bonds constructed by Islam is the fact that the commercial development accruing from the centralization of worship caused the transformation of Meccan society from a social order determined primarily by kinship and ethnic homogeneity of origin into an order in which the fiction of kinship served now to mask a developing division of society into classes characterized by considerable ethnic diversity.

As the Quraysh amassed wealth and gained power, the economic gulf separating its component clans widened. Eventually the clans of Makhzum and Umayya, who later were very instrumental in the spread of Islam, came to the forefront and occupied the "inner city" around the Ka`bah; the other eight and poorer clans dwelt in the outskirts Muhammad belonged to one of them, the Banu Hashims.

When the function of the clan no longer served the economic ambitions of the Quraysh, they placed their destiny in the hands of an oligarchy of rich merchants who with their immediate families and dependents controlled political power in Mecca and dominated its economic and religious life. They decided on general policy, concluded alliances as needed, and entered into formal trade agreements with the courts of Abyssinia and Persia.

As the reorientation of Meccan society on the eve of Islam began to crystallize, it reflected increasingly the growing distinctions which we associate with class gradations rather than those formally attributed to tribal affiliations. In this new Meccan society "class" distinction played a more determinative role, a phenomenon unknown to pastoral tribes. The dependent population of Mecca reflected the gradations of its society into slaves, missionaries, merchants in charge of caravans, middlemen like `Umar who became the second caliph, those who became dependents through usury, wage earners, and finally, clients (mawali). But the organization of power among the aristocracy of Quraysh was not complete because their council of oligarchs lacked legislative force and the means to execute decisions without having to resort to traditional methods, such as refusing protection to a recalcitrant. In a society now organized around functional classes rather than tribal membership, the threat of a blood feud or a protracted vendetta was no longer an effective weapon of social restraint when friction developed within the society. If restraint existed, it was due largely to fear of repercussions from antagonizing the controlling clans of the "inner city." But in this crucial period of Mecca, when traditional socio-religious values were giving way to new ones, the evolving system was not free from injustices; otherwise Muhammad would have lacked the wherewithal for his preaching of a new socio-religious system based on submission to one God. The discriminatory and exploitative policies of the "inner Quraysh" toward the "Quraysh of the outskirts" (clients and slaves), gained for Muhammad an audience, the earliest target of his preachings, and provided him with a core of early followers. Obnoxious practices instituted by the oligarchy, such as wage payment and debt slavery, contributed to the growing unrest directed against them. Some clients escaped exploitation because of the nominal backing of patrons to whom they were tied by some kin-ritual, but those without such backing and other unaffiliates were exposed to attack or even unobstructed killing in a blood feud. Mecca at the birth of Muhammad was indeed a complicated order undergoing considerable fermentation aggravated by social injustices resulting from distinctions based on clan and kin affiliations. And while the trend toward religious unity was pronounced, the social order was far from stable owing to the widening gulf between the "haves" and the "havenots." The need for a remedial treatment such as that offered by Muhammad in his message of Islam was timely because demands for reform could not have been avoided much longer. The role of Muhammad was indeed preordained.

(Islam, Beliefs And Observances, Caesar E. Farah, p2-7, 26-35)


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