Friday, 23 January 2015

Mohammad for Mankind – what about Muslim war with the Jews

For many Muslims the well-known facts about Mohammad pertain to his status as the saviour of humanity; his impeccable behaviour quintessentially remains unquestionable. Such praise absolves any need for character analysis and we are expected to believe in the perfection of Mohammad in every aspect.

One of the qualities of Mohammad, which makes him an example to follow, is his mercy----displayed by acts of forgiveness towards his enemies and the haters of Islam. But the simple truth of the matter is that when Mohammad arrived in Madina in AD 622, a sizable Jewish community thrived there and when he died in AD 632 very few Jews remained due to expulsion, death and enslavement. Many Muslims will argue that Mohammad’s state of perfection allowed him to punish the Jews who broke treaties and schemed with the tribes opposed to him----even tried to kill him. But the essence of forgiveness was not granted to the Jews and the hostility against them is promoted and supported in every Muslim country to this day.

The glossed over facts about the reasons for hatred towards the Jews are defended by many Muslim theologians only because they vilified the Prophet in Madina and denied the truth about his prophethood as mentioned in Quran. Some even argue that the enslavement, punishment and retaliations against the Jews were simply acts of following Arab custom, which allowed enslavement or death in dealing with the enemies. However, granted that everyone is part and parcel of his or her own culture, why a prophet imbued with divine inspiration from Allah did not rise above these violent tribal customs.

Mohammad was a man besieged by challenges of his time. He made decisions which went against some people and pleased others. The reasons behind those decisions are open to speculations, analysis and debate. Because the enmity against the Jews is very ancient and since most Muslims believe in following Mohammad literally it is crucial to know the facts behind the hostility.

Below is an analysis of the events leading to the old hostility between the Muslims and the Jews:

The earliest Islam was an improvement on the prior faith, Judaism.

At the time Mohammad entered Madina, three major Jewish clans lived there: Qaynuqa, Nadir and Qurayz. Mohammad worked on an agreement with them that all the Jews were not to support an enemy against him and ‘they were to be neither for him nor against him,’ in other words be neutral. In April 624, Muhammad expelled the clan Qaynuqa. One day a Muslim woman was conducting business in a Jewish market, and some Jews fastened her skirt to a nail. When she stood up, she was exposed. A Muslim happened to be present and witnessed the practical joke and the ridicule, killed one of the pranksters, who avenged their friend’s death in turn. The prank is found in Islamic sources which was the reason behind the expulsion of Qaynuqa clan. However it is arguable that this prank has no more than anecdotal value. But this incident is reason enough to inspire bin Laden to bear a grudge against the Jews. Many historians believe that Jews had assumed a contentious attitude towards Muhammad and that might have led to their expulsion. Was Mohammad’s response to the conflict proportional? To many it seems not because Qaynuqa never waged war on Mohammad. It comes not as a surprise that millions of Muslims hate the Jews and if Mohammad is perceived as their guide many believe that the enmity will not be wiped out.

When Mohammad expelled the Nadir clan the revelation in the Quran which permits Muhammad to cut down the date palms owned by the Jews is complicated to understand, because law and custom forbade this practice in war or at any time, but Allah gave the prophet special permission to break this rule. Mohammad expelled the entire tribe because they supposedly tried to kill him. Many see this response not propionate and think that it leads to the perceived aggression of radical followers.

In March 627, after the Battle of Trench, Mohammad imposed the ultimate penalty on the men of Jewish clan of Qurayza. The sentence was death by decapitation for around 600 men and enslavement for the women and children. Muslim defence of the carrying out of this sentence is that the Jews broke their agreement to remain neutral in the battle. However it is argued that Mohammad could have executed only a few leaders or the few guilty ones. He did not have to wipe the entire Jewish tribe by execution and enslavement.

During the caliphate of Umar the Jews were expelled from the Arabian peninsula. Umar citing the prophet’s words spoken on his deathbed: ‘Two religions shall not remain together in the peninsula of the Arabs,’ and considered it reason enough to justify his actions. This incident show that irrational excess seeped into Islam in the very beginning.

The Hadith passages saying that in the Last Day a tree or a stone will cry out that a Jew is hiding behind it, so Muslims must come and kill him, leads to the assumption for many Muslims that a Jew is behind every bad event, including 9/11. Plain reading of the Quran inspires many fanatic preachers

It is crucial for Muslims to ask, if Mohammad’s life and policies serve as role model of peace and divine love, why the hostilities towards the Jews continue to exist after fourteen hundred years? Can traditional and conservative Muslims reform, when they prefer to follow literally Quran and Haadith?

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