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Saturday, May 30, 2009

The History of Abrahamic Religion, part 5

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Comments: 6
So here we are, the long awaited part 5, Islam.

Man, it's been slow going! Reading up on Islam is soooooo boring. There are hardly any real miracles, although Islamic scholars believe that the Qur’an is miraculous by its very nature in being a 'revealed' text and because of Islam's tradition of not translating the Qur'an into a different language from the original, any translations you read are more of a 'literal' translation than most of the standard Bible translations, so it's like reading Shakespear.

As some of you who regularly read my blogs may know, I like to study religions so that I can attempt to knock 'em down with logic or point out historical inaccuracies, or show how a cirtain legend is actualy just based on another earlier religion's legends with the names and possibly the location changed, but there's hardly anything in Islam to knock or point out. It reads as like Abrahamic religion but without most of the mystical bullsh!t. What little there is is simply based on the Judaistic texts of the Old Testament, so I've already covered any points there in my earlier blogs, but as for the story of Muhammad himself... well there are many corroborating historical sources for his existence, so he was more than likely a real man, but he was simply a preacher from Mecca who claimed to be in constant contact with the angel Gabriel (who quoted the Qur'an to Muhammad) and who was invited to act as a neutral outsider to Medina to serve as chief arbitrator for the entire community. There was lots of fighting between feuding clans at the time and it had become obvious to them all that the tribal conceptions of blood-feud and an eye for an eye were no longer workable unless there was one man with authority to adjudicate in disputed cases. So a delegation from Medina pledged themselves and their fellow citizens to accept Muhammad into their community and physically protect him as one of themselves.

So he upped sticks, and took his Meccan followers with him.
There's a bit here that might kinda hold a mirror up to Jesus escaping his birthplace from Herod because the Meccans plotted to assassinate Muhammad before he left. With the help of Ali, (his cousin) Muhammad fooled the Meccans who were watching him, and secretly slipped away from the town.
The rest of his story is basicaly made up of Muhammad leading the Muslims against the Meccans, involving some fighting and lots of politics and eventualy conquering them and then going on to conquer northern Arabia and the confederate tribes of Hawazin, although there's very little actual fighting involved in these conquests because most of them simply sent emissaries to Medina to surrender to Muhammad and adopt Islam and he even received the submission of some local chiefs of the region who he hadn't even contacted, let alone threatened.

There's a hadith (oral tradition) known as "The Story of the Cranes" that's sorta similar to the story of the temptation of Jesus in the wilderness by Satan (which itself was based on the Egyptian myth of Horus confronting Set in the desert) which describes Muhammad's involvement at the time of migration which holds that Muhammad pronounced a verse acknowledging the existence of three Meccan goddesses considered to be the daughters of Allah, praising them, and appealing for their intercession. According to this account, Muhammad later retracted the verses at the behest of Gabriel.

There's also the story of the 'Battle of Badr'
Following the emigration, the Meccans seized the properties of the Muslim emigrants in Mecca. Uprooted and with no profession, the Muslim migrants turned to raiding Meccan caravans as an act of war, deliberately initiating armed conflict between the Muslims and Mecca and Muhammad apparently delivered some Qur'anic verses permitting the Muslims to fight the Meccans, which can kinda be viewed as a similar legends of the Jews who left Egypt, banded together into tribes and raided the Canaanites.

But if any of these stories are linked in any way to the earlier legends of Judaism or Christianity, they are so loosely linked it's practicaly impossible to show that they were simply inspired stories from the earlier religions and therefore not likely to have happened at all.

So, unlike the Hebrew Bible, which is full of texts that have obviously been inspired by the earlier polytheistic religions of Canaan and Atenism from Egypt, and the Christian New Testament which is full of texts about Jesus that were obviously inspired by other earlier religions like the Persian Mithra worship and the Egyptian Horus worship, there really doesn't seem to be anything major to trip Islam up with.
So I'm afraid if you were expecting me to dig up some real dirt on Islam, my blog's gonna be a pretty boring read about a Muslim leader who apparently wrote the Qur'an, (as dictated by Gabriel) even though he apparently couldn't read or write (doesn't mean he couldn't dictate it to someone else who could though does it? ) became a religious and political leader of a bunch of people and ended up conquering quite a large area and united the tribes of Arabia into a singular Arab Muslim religious polity in the last years of his life.
Although that motife itself is something that is repeated over and over again in religion, for example the upper and lower Egyptian tribes uniting via religion to establish the kingdom of Egypt, the tribes of the Jews uniting via religion to take on the Canaanites and establish the Kingdom of Israel, Constantine using Christianity to re-unit the split Roman Empire, which all basically tells us that religion was simply just a tool used by leaders and politicians to unite people towards a common cause.

In Islam, 'Iblis' (Satan) is a jinn (or genie) who worshipped God so much that God raised him to heaven so he could worship God in the company of the angels. In contrast to Judaism and Christianity, in which he is a fallen angel, Islam does not recognise the concept of fallen angels. Angels in Islam do not have free will, therefore it's simply impossible for them to disobey God. But jinns do have free will, so when God created Adam and breathed life into him and commanded all present to recognize Adam, Iblis arrogantly defied on accepting Adam as 'khalifa' ('caretaker', an interesting term, because in the original Babylonian version of the creation of man that the Biblical one is based upon, man was made by the gods out of clay for no other reason than to take care of creation, or, the earth) on earth and disobeyed God stating that he was made from fire and therefore much superior to Adam who is made from clay. Then God threw him out of heaven.

So you see, because of Islam's belief that angels do not have free will, that then affects Islam's belief in the origins of their version of Satan. It's an example of how one belief has a knock-on effect on another belief, kinda like a 'next logical step'.
In the same way, the Christian belief that Jesus was the son of God eventualy had the knock-on effect that caused the belief that Jesus was God himself, because Christianity is monotheistic, any son of a god born to a mortal woman would automaticaly be considered a demi-god, like the Greek Heracles, which is a purely polytheistic belief, so they could either back down and say he was just a mortal prophet, as Islam does, or they can go a step further and proclaim him to be God himself.
And as we know, no one likes to back down from their beliefs.

In Islam's version of Heaven, (Jannat) everyone is 32 years old (the same age as when Jesus ascended) and everyone will have the same build and stature. Their afterlife includings wearing costly robes, bracelets, perfumes; partaking in exquisite banquets, served in priceless vessels by immortal youths; reclining on couches inlaid with gold or precious stones. Other foods mentioned include fruits, milk, poultry, scented wine and clear drinks bringing neither drunkenness nor rousing quarreling. Inhabitants will rejoice in the company of their parents, wives, and children (provided they were admitted to paradise) conversing and recalling the past and Islamic texts also relate to "pure consorts" (houris), created in perfection, with whom carnal joys are shared "a hundred times greater than earthly pleasure".
So here we see an example of how culture shapes religion, basicaly each religion's version of Heaven contains whatever is important to the culture that the religion came from.

So, allow me to end with a note about fundamentalism.
Obviously fundamentalism in Islam is the big issue that most people have with Islam, but it's worth noting how Islam became fundamental in the first place.
Up until the Crusades happened during the 11th and 12th centuries, there was a period called the 'Islamic Golden Age', during which the Islamics were generaly very enlightened, peaceful people. During this period, (also known as the Islamic Renaissance) artists, engineers, scholars, poets, philosophers, geographers and traders in the Islamic world contributed to the arts, agriculture, economics, industry, law, literature, navigation, philosophy, sciences, sociology, and technology, both by preserving and building upon earlier traditions and by adding inventions and innovations of their own.
After the Crusades from the West that resulted in the instability of the Islamic world during the 11th and 12th centuries, a new threat came from the East during the 13th century, the Mongol invasions.

Islamic civilization, which had at the outset been creative and dynamic in dealing with issues, began to struggle to respond to the challenges and rapid changes it faced from the 12th century onwards. There was an increasing lack of tolerance of intellectual debate and freedom of thought, with some seminaries systematically forbidding speculative philosophy, while polemic debates appear to have been abandoned in the 14th century.
So, basicaly Islamic fundamentalism wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the Christian fundamentalism of the Crusades that resulted in a domino effect which in turn resulted in Islamic fundamentalism.
Does that in any way defend Islamic fundamentalism?
No, of course it doesn't, nothing can, but it's worth pointing it out to Christians that the problem exists today because of what Christianity did hundreds of years ago. It points out that fighting Islam is just gonna make the problem worse.
3:57 pm - 6 comments - 6 Kudos - Report!
mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 6:45pm

I disagree with your last point. I think that once you stir up the wasp nest, it won't leave you alone until you die.

But why didn't you go into the Islam concept that every generation has a prophet from different places and religions? It's a fairly interesting and ingenious idea.


SlackerBabbatha wrote on May 31st, 2009 1:20am

mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 5:45pm :

I disagree with your last point. I think that once you stir up the wasp nest, it won't leave you alone until you die.

My point was that it was mistrust that started it, compounded by hundreds of years of breeding more mistrust, and that the only way to to solve the problems is to end the cycle of mistrust.
mamosa wrote on May 30th, 2009 at 5:45pm :

But why didn't you go into the Islam concept that every generation has a prophet from different places and religions? It's a fairly interesting and ingenious idea.

As far as I'm aware, Muslims regard Adam as the first prophet and Muhammad as the last prophet, hence Muhammad's title 'Seal of the Prophets', although Islamic tradition holds that God sent messengers to every nation.


EL2T wrote on May 31st, 2009 6:41pm

You're last point seems fair enough, there is truth behind it after all.


SlackerBabbatha wrote on Jun 3rd, 2009 9:00am

jetfuel495 wrote on Jun 2nd, 2009 at 6:28pm :

This is great stuff, man. You know like... everything

Cheers bud. :cheers:


Alijonroth wrote on Jan 2nd, 2011 3:54am

i read one of you posts on a *cough* Fassa thread and i must say im impressed with your knowledge of Islam, i took a mental note to check ur profile sometime and here i am! this was a very good read, im a Muslim by the way...i dont know what ur religious views are but i like your unbiased approach :-) cheers!


SlackerBabbatha wrote on Feb 22nd, 2011 12:05pm

Alijonroth wrote on Jan 2nd, 2011 at 3:54am :
i read one of you posts on a *cough* Fassa thread and i must say im impressed with your knowledge of Islam, i took a mental note to check ur profile sometime and here i am! this was a very good read, im a Muslim by the way...i dont know what ur religious views are but i like your unbiased approach :-) cheers!

Thanks bud.
I'm an agnostic atheist, I'm fully aware that I cannot prove that God doesn't exist, but I don't believe he does.
A awhile ago, a Muslim asked me about my beliefs and when I told him that, he said "But you have to keep an open mind on these things" to which I replied "I do, that's what agnosticism is actualy all about, saying that it's impossible to know whether God exists or not, infact I keep a more open mind than you do because I accept the possibility that God may not exist whereas you do not."

He thought about that for a moment and shook my hand, it was meeting point of mutual respect that felt quite profound at the time.


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