UI – Part 150 – Muhammad and Monotheism
How did Muhammad develop his penchant for a monotheistic faith? Born into the Quraysh tribe he was exposed to their activities at keeping the Kaaba and sponsoring the annual pilgrimage of all factions to Mecca. There they would enjoy peace while trading goods and exploring their personal beliefs represented by idols, some say 360 of them, on display in the Kaaba structure. The family was enriched by their role as keeper of the Kaaba, fighting too to preserve this location for the annual event that yielded considerable profits to the family. Enriched by the pagan Arab representatives the Quraysh encouraged all the children of the tribe to continue as the guardian and keeper of the Kaaba, thus enjoying and preserving their wealth.
Year of the Elephant
A heated battle over the distinction of hosting this annual event was fought in the 6th century. A Christian group (Qullays) in Yemen, the ruler of Yemen Christian (Abrahah al-Habashiyy), attempted to duplicate this profitable bazaar and gathering. They made the effort to attract other clans and tribes to Saana to enjoy food, drink, exchange wares and engage in the pleasures this mixed society might make available. However the pagan Arabs remained loyal to the Mecca Quraysh event. The Yemen leader decided to attack Mecca, destroy the Kaaba and alter the landscape, fighting for this profitable yearly event. The commander had at the head of his attacking army of 60,000 a large white elephant. It was labeled the Year of the Elephant. Near the city the elephant refused to advance, despite prodding. In the Year of the Elephant the Battle was lost. It is seen as an act of divine intervention, the story being told that birds from the sea carried stones with the names of the army soldiers and dropped them on each, killing all but a few.
Although there is some controversy over the date of this battle, the Islamists claim it was the year Muhammad was born, 570CE. Other historical records and/or historians place it at 560CE. The Sassanid Empire (the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire) overthrew Yemen’s dynasties in 570.
An emissary to the leader in Mecca tried to convince them their effort to host the annual pilgrimage was more worthy as the religion of the Qually’s was monotheistic and purer than the diluted and varied idolism of the followers that assembled in Mecca each year. Obviously to no avail. An Islamic historian and recorder of many hadiths, Ibn Ishaq (died 767, 135 years after Muhammad’s death, 200 years after the Elephant battle), reports that a member of the Quraysh tribe in a clandestine fashion traveled to Saana and desecrated the Qually Church with his own excrement. This incensed the Yemen Christian leader and was the catalyst to his attempt to destroy the Kaaba.
Christians in the Area
When Muhammad was born, along with the many pagan Arab clans, there were centers for Christians and Jews. Yemen and Ethiopia was Christian. Medina (then Yathrib) contained many transported Jews who were forced to leave Jerusalem after the destruction of the Temple by the Romans. There were Christian Arab groups that joined the pilgrimage to Mecca, their god, Jesus, displayed with other idols in the Kaaba. Interesting is the fact that during these times there was peace among pluralistic religious groups. They could promote their faith, keep their faith, and live among those of other faiths. Muhammad grew up in this atmosphere. He became aware also of the attempt to destroy the Kaaba and knew also of the Persian influence in the area, as the Sassanid Empire was present about everywhere.
Exposed to the Bible and Biblical History
At an early age Muhammad found employment and the opportunity to travel in the area with a wealthy woman who owned and operated a large trading operation. Caravans were sent often from Mecca to Syria and Mecca to Yemen to exchange goods, food stuffs, and provide needed supplies to various areas. It was a valuable business and Muhammad became good at it. Khadija (555-619), the owner and senior to Muhammad by 25 years, was enamored by Muhammad’s talents, skills and loyalty. She became close to him and eventually married when he was 25 (she was 50). He cousin was an Old Testament scholar, having translated this valued text into Arabic, was knowledgeable as to the New Testament as well. Waraqah (Waraqah ibn Nawfal) was able to spend time with Muhammad. Muhammad probably has a copy of Waraqah’s Old Testament translation.
From his travels and his exchange of ideas with Waraqah, his visits to Jewish and Christian areas, pagan areas, and biblical historical places, Muhammad could not avoid exposure to monotheistic cultures and thinking. He learned from the bible. From that resource he also established the foundation for his own beliefs. One might question, given the difficulty in fully understanding the Word of God without a dedicated thirst and hunger for God’s presence in your life, if Muhammad fully comprehended the essence of the faith in Jesus and the saving grace of the Lord. His education may have been derived more from the Old Testament than the New Testament, because of Waraqah, but through prophesy and history in the Old, the New came to life and was realized in the perfect life led by Isa (Jesus Christ). Unless he was ignorant of the truth Muhammad would have known, would have realized, the whole story of the Bible is about Jesus.
As a businessman and promoter Muhammad may have seen an opportunity for himself. His time spent alone filled his mind and conscious with godly visions which he interpreted, vocalized (as he was illiterate), as inspirations and revelations from god – whom he called Allah. He shared them with Khadija who as a loving and respectful wife admired his passion. She had Muhammad share his experience from time alone in a cave with Waraqah who came to see him as a prophet, learned of matters he found surprising. Muhammad accepted that mantle and became the self-proclaimed prophet of his new own personal monotheistic faith. Khadija supported Muhammad’s new found belief, believing in him as she did. Encouraged he shared with others his discovery.
Muhammad was guided by his knowledge of the Bible. He may have confused elements when, knowing the life of Jesus, his dreams brought god into his mind. He saw Jesus as a competitor for his new found objective, establishing a religion of his own. He would have his own following and some day lead others to follow his commands and directives. He began to combine personal desires with his biblical understanding. He did not fully comprehend the Resurrection, as is the case for so many today, and found clarity in denying the relationship of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, making it Father, Son and Mary. He also could not grasp original sin, the fall of Adam, seeing Adam as a divine child, made mortal, and without sin.
Muhammad contends he was born without sin, and so Muslims accept that posture as well, yet his weakness as a man made it difficult to resist temptations of the flesh, material things, authority, power, and the ability, using force if necessary, to control his destiny (as a man taking credit) and control others he would oversee. He created, I contend, a man-made religion, combining the history of the ages, biblical history, and modifying it for his purposes. He created benefits for his followers by engaging in raids producing treasures and human flesh to be enjoyed, shared with Muhammad, and used to advance his cause in the name of Allah.
My faith is strong, not perfect. I accept Christ as Savior. The Resurrection is the historical event that cemented my belief, the tangible that made any possible intangible in having faith in God readily acceptable. It also made the reality of that which is incomprehensible, the concept of a Being beyond the boundaries of imagination, real. God is real. I study the Bible; I try to interpret and understand the Bible. It is not always perfectly clear and I need to seek those more knowledgeable than me. I enjoy a gathering of men who meet weekly to discuss Scripture, book by book. We have been at it for over 5 years. Other family members have bible studies and struggles with their faith which we discuss. God, Jesus Christ, the history of the Bible, the prophets, and statements, parables, and verses are before me and on my mind. So it happens, on occasion, when I sleep, I dream and my mind engages in a polemic over facts raised, issues discussed, or recent readings from the Bible, God and the life of Christ. It can be exciting, damming, realistic, and a jolt, which causes me to awake. Has God revealed himself to me, an angel spoken to me, or a revelation of thought occurred to me. What has happened to you? All I know is my sub-conscious, possibly the Holy Spirit, was in touch with my inner-self, a light upon my soul. It could have been a demon attempting to wedge itself between my faith sub-conscious and my tempted sub-conscious. There are times I am compelled to write what I can remember, and if I do not do it right away, at the moment I am awaken, I can remember some, not all. If I wait until morning, it all seems to go, except the memory that an event took place.
How are you affected by your dreams, your time alone? Jesus often went to a quiet place to pray. He sought time alone with God and to pray. Joseph, step-father of Jesus, experienced an angel of the Lord appearing to him in a dream. He was told to take the baby to Egypt and protect him from King Herod. Dreams have been most significant in the Bible. Joseph, son of Israel saw himself as a leader.
Nebuchadnezzar’s dreams were interpreted and became a prediction of his downfall. Daniel had visions, dreams that explained those of Nebuchadnezzar. There are references to dreams of the Lord, in Joel after much calamity, (2:28), “I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.” In Isaiah it points to dreams out of need, as when a hungry man dreams he is eating, a thirsty man dreams he is drinking, only to awake the hunger remains, the thirst unquenched. Interesting is verse 12:6 in Numbers, the Lord speaking to Miriam and Aaron, who spoke against Moses, “Listen to my words: ‘When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams.” Was this Muhammad’s inspiration?
But read these words, Deuteronomy 13:1-6, “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) ‘and let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. The Lord your God is testing you to find out whether you love him with all your heart, and with all your soul. It is the Lord your God you must follow, and him you must revere. Keep his commands and obey him; serve him and hold fast to him. That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he has preached rebellion against the Lord your God, who…redeemed you….” The instruction is clear – to not worship other gods, do not be led astray.
1250 years before Muhammad, Jeremiah relates as to the Lord, (Jeremiah 23:25-28), “I have heard the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, ‘I had a dream! I had a dream!’ How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy delusions of their own minds? They think the dreams they tell one another will make my people forget my name, just as their fathers forgot my name through Baal (Satan) worship. Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully.” Then this verse reads (25:30-32), “Therefore I am against prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me. Yes I am against the prophets who wag their own tongues and yet declare, ”The Lord declares.’ Indeed, I am against those who prophesy false dreams. They tell them and lead my people astray with their reckless lies; yes I did not send or appoint them. They do not benefit these people in the least.”
Rooted in Biblical teaching and recall Muhammad has done what many have done, placed himself in the wonderful story of the Bible and the history of the Almighty. Not having reference material handy, he conjured up through restful dream sequences god and became a part of the story. He envisioned himself a prophet, a leader of men seeking the kingdom of God. His family was quite comfortable with their status and role as keepers of the Kaaba, respectful of all faiths, pagan or otherwise, but that defied even Biblical teaching that there is but one God. He was encouraged to live his dream as a revelation from the almighty and change his people. His success was not as a leader, but as a warrior, insisting on compliance with what he believed, this after volunteers were hard to come by. Jesus, Isa, understood this. Muhammad did not and his defiance became the basis for a program of Submission to the prescription for an eternal life, by coercion and forces as needed. It continues today. Substituting himself as a Prophet, proclaiming god’s word, Allah, gave him a personal justification for his objective.
Open and free choice was not in his plan. It was the Muhammad way or no way. Or was it to become the way of his successors, out of convenience for unifying captured lands under a supernatural element whom people would fear more than man.
Understand Islam. Think about every aspect of it. Question it. Explore, research, read, debate, and draw your own conclusions. The ulema will only say it is the Will of Allah. But it is not the will of God to be a victim of god’s kingdom, but a loving advocate, a committed member, with every right to leave and return. God seeks his lost sheep, not to kill or maim but to encourage their return home. Celebrations are ready for those in exile who decide they are troubled without God in their lives and wish to return to the Father.
Pray for open hearts and minds.
Grace and Peace.