29. Origin of Islam


In recapitulation, in the Iron Age we see tribes, each cherishing their own ancestral Big Ancestor Figure, extending their own cultural sphere, either by war or by trade or a combination of both. Their need to reconcile different spheres implied the need for a shared Supergod Figure. John Bowker describes this trend in detail, in his God. A brief history (London, 2002): in the Nile Valley, in Asia, in India.

A similar development took place in Arabia, home of the Islam. This dry peninsula, situated conveniently between Western Europe and the Far East, had become prosperous by transit trade, and also itself produced the main ingredients for the incense used in the religious rituals of the Greco-Roman world. Its wilderness and dryness kept the peninsula out of the reach of the Persian and Roman armies, so the prosperity of the Arab tribes kept booming. In the end, however, the Romans built harbors for tall ships on the Egyptian Red Sea coast which enabled them to bypass Arabia and to trade with India and China in a more direct way, causing a dramatic decline in Arabia.

Impoverished Arab tribes moved north, only to be contained by both the Roman and the Persian empire in Arab buffer states on their borders, meant to limit Arab immigration[1]. For the Roman Byzantines the Ghassanids were the buffer state, and for the Persians the Gerrheans. In both cases, these buffer states were strong enough to supply the empire with soldiers; and both buffer states had already been influenced by Christian missionaries: the Ghassanids by ‘Monophysites’ and the Gerrheans by ‘Nestorians’. Both Christian denominations were hostile against each other. After a period of balance of power, Romans and Persians got in a deadly clinch, causing the collapse of the Persian empire which was subsequently taken over by the Arabs.

In this situation, with a grown but now impoverished and desperate population, the Islam was born. Several prophets/gang leaders gathered bands of young warriors to benefit from the weakness of the superpowers the Roman empire and the Persian empire, involved in a deadly struggle with each other. Mohammed was one of these prophets. He got support of three rich friends, who believed in his idea of one Arabian supergod, like the Jewish and Christian gods: they hoped that such a common ideology would create the unity that was needed to end the trade-hampering ghazwas (tribal raids). With their money, Mohammed armed a gang of young mujahedeen (emigrants/warriors, hoping on a chance to emigrate to the northern lands with ‘ever flowing waters’).

When the Shah tried to annex Gerrhea for more tax output, the Gerrhean king opened the sluice for mujahedeen gangs for help. Just when Mohammed arrived with his gang, the Shah had resigned of his plan. The Mohammed gang was not welcome: for the more civilized Gerrheans they were vile people with a western dialect and probably Monophysites!

The friends returned to Mecca, but they found the gate closed. The Meccan citizens kept wary for their lucrative Kaaba business.

Mohammed’s gang was beginning to expire, but luckily (?) arrived a request from Yathrib (later Medina): for help in a quarrel with a Jewish tribe. Mohammed succeeded in help, and more: he made Medina his base.

After several laborious years (and some narrow escapes) Mohammed and his friends became successful: when Mohammed died, half Arabia had been pacified by the new ideology.

Mohammed’s leadership was continued by his friends Abu Bakr, Omar and Uthman from the Quraisj-clan, not by his adopted son Ali who was from Mohammed’s Hashim-clan. Under Abu Bakr, the entire Arabian peninsula was Islamized. Under Omar a big part of Persia, the Levant and Egypt followed. Under Uthman followed the rest of the Persian empire and more parts of North Africa. The Islam ideology had turned out a great success story.

As a prophet, Mohammed had pretended that his ideas came from his God, Allah, transported to him by an angel. Like other prophets, he produced Jewish-Christian aphorisms to inspire his followers. In later days the remembered aphorisms together with sermons and preaches have been gathered in a ‘holy’ book, Koran.

This ‘holy’ book, however, mainly consists of fragments of sermons of later imams which still referred to Jewish-Christian theological origins. This sermons are hastily recorded by someone who incidental mastered the art of writing. His casual quotations became later part of the Holy Koran. When you read Soera 2 Al-Bakara, you meet a clumsy narrative, when you compare it with the narratives in the Bible. But when you realize that this are hastily recorded quotations of a sermon (comparative with the quotations in a college cahier), you meet a Jewish/Christian sermon

abstract. For today’s Islamic imams the inaccessible texts of the Holy Koran make it easier to impose their own beliefs and conceptions to their audience.

692 Jerusalem Rock Dome inscription (mosaic)

The oldest inscription of the Islam, in the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem, is a theological-political statement of the Omajjid Caliph Abd al-Malik meant to deny the claims of his monophysitic Byzantine opponent Heraclius. The inscription dates from 692 and reads: "Oh people of the Book, (…) the messiah Jesus son of Mary was only the messenger [muhammadu-n] of God (…) it is not on God to take a son …".

Theologically, in 692 the Arabs were still involved in some Christian doctrinal discussion, but at the same time they were already developing their own specific theological framework – including special prescriptions such as salaat (obligatory prayers) and zakaat (tax). *** Perhaps is ‘developing’ not the right word: salaat, more times a day praying in the direction of Mecca was already part of the Arabic religion in pre-Islamite times. In Mecca was the Kasbah, with the holy black stone, the center of devotion to the Moon god Hubal, symbolized with the crescent moon. This symbol was already used in the Sumerian religion for Sin (or Nanna), the Moon god, "father of the gods", "chief of the gods", "creator of all things", and the like. The "wisdom" personified by the moon-god is likewise an expression of the science of astronomy or the practice of astrology, in which the observation of the moon’s phases is an important factor. For many scientists this is an indication of relationship of the Arabian cultures and the Mesopotamian cultures, contrasting with the Egyptian and Hellenist cultures who used the Sun as their main symbol (later also adopted by Christianity). As to the Kasbah, the practice of 7 x running around the holy Moon stone also existed in pre-Islamite times, as well as congregate on Friday for prayers, and zakaat.

So the Islam is partially a Judaic-Christian, and a pre-Islamite religion.

In 737, the Arab conquest machine was stopped by the Francs at Poitiers. To prevent disintegration of the enormous Arab empire, a common Arab creed was needed more than ever. So from now on, the Abbasid Caliphs actively fostered the further development of Islam as a specifically Arab denomination. The Koran, the sira (biography of the prophet) and the hadith (the conduct of the prophet) got their definitive form and content. Also the fiqh (ethics) and the sharia (legislation) were formally written down.

As mentioned above, Mohammed’s leadership was continued by caliphs of the Quraisj-clan and not by his adopted nephew Ali from his own Hashim-clan. After three Quraisj-caliphs, the Hashim-clan was on turn, but Ali was murdered soon by Muawija, nephew of the Omajjad Uthman. With Muawija the Omajjads got the power, in a series of 14 caliphs, from 661 to 750. The murder on Ali and his son Hussain was also the beginning of the schism between the Sunnis and the Shiites. Shiitism is mainly living in Iran and a part of Iraq. The rest of the Muslim world is mostly Sunni.

At first sight, monotheistic religions seem rather stabile systems. Christianity endured in the Western states until the breakthrough of the free market and is still holding out in not free societies. The eventual breakthrough of the free market society in the Western states was made possible by the fact that in Europe the secular power always has been divided. The heads of state (emperors and kings) never succeeded in subjecting the local counts and dukes. To finance their wars they were forced to borrow money at the bankers of the cities, in return for liberties. Slowly the power shifted from the gentry to the bourgeoisie. The Church had to move along, at the expense of several schisms and separations like Protestantism and Anglicanism. All religious denominations kept their conservative character, and kept trying to slow down the inevitable innovation and progression.

The Islamite empire was progressive under the Abbasid dynasty until in 1258 the Mongols devastated Bagdad and killed the last Abbasid emperor. Around 1500 Portuguese and Dutch seafaring entrepreneurs got around the Islamite trade monopoly with the Far East, and this was the end of the Muslim golden age. The Islam was of no help. On the contrary, the Islamic patriarchs consequently prohibited all forms of innovation and progression. ***The Islam world submerged in despoty and ‘Middle Age’-darkness, became a monolith of social conservatism and remained so to this day.

The Western bourgeoisie sucked in all the innovations of the eastern trade during the Abbasid era, technological innovations such as paper making, gun powder, typography, wind- and watermills, scientific innovations such as algebra, medical and chemical science, and developed all these achievements in a laborious struggle with churches and landlords. After the French Revolution in 1789, the European bourgeoisie got a firm grip on the market and the industry. The break-through of the free market economy after the sixties of the twentieth century gave the death blow to monotheism. The free market economy is unstoppable in its turn. Fundamentalist sects and fractions of Judaic, Christian and Islamic spheres fight against its take-over, but the free market economy is as a warm spring wind, thawing the permafrost of old forms and thoughts, doing collapse all institutions build on it. No state or person exercises power over this economy, it penetrates each civilization via capillaries. Those in power can only try to hamper the process, not stop. ….

[1] The same limes politics as the Romans practiced on the German tribes from northern Europe.

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