CHARLOTTE, NC: With the recent attacks in New Zealand and the Netherlands, it appears the ugly pendulum of terror is swinging back in vogue after a period of relative hibernation. With that in mind, it might do well to remind ourselves of a brief history of Islam and how it evolved into a 21st-century global menace.
History of Islam
One of the best sources for understanding the way Islam has progressed over the past 1400 years is through the writings of 20th century British historian Hiliare Belloc. Belloc’s prophetic work The Great Heresies, written in the late 1930s, has Nostradamus-like insights into the world in which we live today.
Belloc summarized the problem in slightly more than 100 words when he wrote:
Millions of modern people of the white civilization—that is, the civilization of Europe and America—have forgotten all about Islam. They have never come in contact with it. They take for granted that it is decaying, and that, anyway, it is just a foreign religion which will not concern them. It is, as a fact, the most formidable and persistent enemy which our civilization has had, and may at any moment become as large a menace in the future as it has been in the past. The suggestion that Islam may re-arise sounds fantastic but this is only because men are always powerfully affected by the immediate past: one might say that they are blinded by it.
Violent Tribal Societies in the Arabic World
There are two little-understood realities that existed in pre-Islamic Arabia which continue even in our contemporary world. Though the brutally harsh desert climate is not nearly as severe in modern times as it was in the 7th century, the relentless blistering sun led to violent tribal societies that have always been inherent in the Arabic world.
Paranoia is the national pastime of the Middle East. Spend any amount of time in the region and one quickly learns that no one ever stops looking over their shoulders. Trust is not a word that exists in an Arabic dictionary.
To get around that, a culture of tribalism emerged and included inter-family marriages among other things. With an “eye-for-an-eye” mentality, it was part of the norm for tribes to raid other tribes for the purposes of gaining wealth, stealing wives and obtaining slaves.
Tribal warfare was common. It was part of the code of vengeance that has never diminished.
Muhammad and the Quraysh Tribe
Among the most powerful tribes of the 7th century was the Quraysh tribe, of which Muhammad was a member. Among their most venerate and religious icons is a huge black stone, known as the Kabah.
Whenever pilgrimages were made to Mecca to worship, it was tradition to kiss the Kabah as part of the worship.
Even today, during the annual pilgrimage of the Hajj, millions of Muslims walk counterclockwise seven times around the Kabah. With so many participants, however, the biggest difference is that most pilgrims are not able to kiss the massive black cube.
Much like the ministry of Jesus Christ, Muhammad began his “career” late in life, when he began having visions that he was a prophet at the age of 40.
During his annual pilgrimage to pray in caves outside of Mecca during Ramadan, Muhammad began to experience visions which at first he only secretly shared with friends and family.
Initially, many of his converts were only family members, but, as his message became more public, Muhammad suffered ridicule, derision, and hostility from fellow Meccans.
Muhammad’s flight to Medina
Finally, in 622, Muhammad and his small band of believers fled to Medina as a means of escape. The Hijrah marks the beginning of Islam as we know it. By today’s standards, the migration might appear relatively benign. However, in the context of the brutal tribal Arabian culture of that day, it was a schism of major proportions.
The biggest thing Muhammad gained in his move to Medina was an army, which allowed his followers to resort to raids upon camel caravans traveling through their territory.
Vastly outnumbered by three to one at the Battle of Badr, the victorious Muhammad took it as a sign from Allah that he was the one true messenger of God. Had Muhammad lost that skirmish, Islam might not even exist today.
One little known fact which is forgotten when Muslims speak of their faith is that Christianity was already throughout the Mediterranean region. Before Muhammad ever had a vision.
Surprisingly to most people, for example, is that when Muhammad returned to Mecca in triumph in the year 630, paintings of Jesus and the Virgin Mary, among others, were still visible on the inner walls of the Kabah.
The Hadith, the Sunnah, and the Ijma.
Muhammad was illiterate. Therefore the Koran, which means “recital” in Arabic, was an oral tradition. What many people do not know however, is there are three other major sources of belief for Muslims; the Hadith, the Sunnah, and the Ijma.
The Hadith is a record of words and deeds of Muhammad by his relatives and friends, while the Sunnah represents the acts of the Prophet.
The third, and least known source, the Ijma, denotes the consensus of the Muslim community or its leading scholars.
Of course, the Koran is said to be the “revealed word of Allah through Muhammad.”
The crime and punishment of the apostate
Wrapping up this basic primer on Islam, all Muslims are aware that if they renounce Islam or become an apostate, they will be liable to the greatest punishment, death and hell.
Incentive enough to remain Muslim, even if they do not believe its message.
About the Author:
Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor is an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
Taylor is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com)
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