Author Topic: History of Arabia  (Read 2064 times)

Peter

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History of Arabia
« on: July 27, 2010, 03:06:45 PM »
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"Can Qusayy Scam?

"Qusayy purchased the custodianship of the Ka'aba for a skin full of wine and a lute."

Desolate is the best word to describe Arabia in the years before the prophet's birth. Although civilization made its debut along the only portion of Arabia that doesn't touch the sea, for thirty-five centuries it failed to take root in the desert sands. In the east lay Mesopotamia, the fertile land between the Tigris and Euphrates. Its legendary cities invented the tool that binds you and me, reader and writer: man's greatest invention, written language. Nearly five thousand years ago the Sumerians, Babylonians, and Assyrians used cuneiform to proclaim their achievements in science, math, astronomy, law, medicine, agriculture, architecture, the arts, and religion.

Yet while these advances were occurring, Arabia remained isolated and stagnant - providing the culture necessary to propagate Islam. Poverty in proximity to greatness makes a people vulnerable to deceit.

While we stand upon the shoulders of the Babylonian, Assyrian, and Sumerian scholars, we are haunted by their faith. Two politically-minded doctrines grew out of its schemes - Medieval Catholicism and fundamental Islam. For a thousand years the most powerful forces were not nations but religions. Both deployed rites first practiced in Babylonian temples. Many Catholic symbols, festivals, and doctrines are rooted in the practices of these distant peoples. Christmas, Easter, Lent, the priesthood, confession, and the worship of the Virgin Mary are examples of present rites borrowed from a pagan past. Islam was not immune. Allah was Sin, the moon god of Ur. The Qur'anic Paradise and Hell were imported from the same realm.

The cuneiform indentations in clay that confirmed these startling realities became hieroglyphics along the Nile and an alphabet on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean. We know from the temple writings in Karnak that pagan gods like those of the Fertile Crescent flourished in Egypt. We saw them emerge again in Greece, then Rome. Yet in Canaan it was a different story. A god appeared unlike any other. In a world of idols, he was spirit. In a world of plenty, he was one. In a world of distant deities symbolized by astronomical bodies he was personal, approachable, knowable. His name was Yahweh. His people were Jews. Together they documented their history and their relationship. In so doing these peoples at the western doorstep of Arabia played a central role in the most telling of all modern tales.

Their intersection begins when a young man named Abram left Sin. In a perilous journey he, his stunning wife Sarai, his father Terah, and his nephew Lot, left Ur of the Chaldeans, and headed northwest. Crossing along the roof of the Arabian Peninsula, their route carried them along the Euphrates to an outpost town called Haran. There, Abram's father died, but not his father's god. Sin, the moon god of Ur, reigned supreme. Called by a higher source than even the moon and its god, Abram, Sarai, and Lot left the safety of the mighty river and headed to the land of Canaan - the Promised Land.

In the greatest story ever told, Abram became Abraham, father of nations. He sired Ishmael at ninety by way of his wife's Egyptian maid and in so doing Abraham gave birth to the seed of Islam. A decade later, the centenarian witnessed the promised miracle birth of Isaac to Sarai, now Sarah. Isaac became the child of destiny, for through him would come all of the prophets and patriarchs: Jacob, Joshua, Moses, David, Solomon, Isaiah, Daniel, Jeremiah, and two millennia later, Yahshua, also known as Jesus of Nazareth. This Biblical story was destined to play out in the crossroads of history, in the most contested land on earth, at the very intersection of continents.

Yet these great dramas depicting the rise of civilizations and faiths simply teased the Arabians. The footprints of culture, science, language, religion, law, and the arts were blown away by the searing winds. The Chaldeans, Assyrians, Babylonians, Persians, Egyptians, Greeks, and Romans all intertwined their histories with Abraham's descendants through Isaac, but not Ishmael. It was as if the Arabs were on a deserted island, marooned in time. Such was the milieu for Islam, a religion so sterile it could only have taken root in a like mind and place.

Arabs remained illiterate throughout the millennia, which is why we know so little about them. And it is why they knew so little about the world that engulfed them. Their language was derived from Aramaic, the dominant tongue of history's initial millennia. But Arabic found neither stylus nor pen for one hundred generations. By Muhammad's time, less than one in a hundred Arabians could write. Classical Arabic, the language in which the Qur'an would come to be written, was just beginning to evolve in Syria.

The Bedouins of the Syrian steppe were nomadic by necessity. Their land was too poor to support towns of substance. Arabs, (a name derived from the word arid) were tribal peoples; there was never a dominant civilization over them. Most attempts to conquer their Peninsula were foiled by the harsh environmental conditions, further exacerbating the challenge of knowing these people. For three thousand years they were neither conquered nor conquerors, for subduing Bedouins was like herding cats. The Babylonians, Assyrians, Egyptians, Persians, Greeks, and Romans all failed. But it was not because Arabs were savage. They coveted freedom and valued nonviolence. For the first three millennia of recorded history, Arabs were among the world's most peaceful and self-reliant people. It is only during the last 1,400 years that they have been terrorists. The dividing line was Islam. Muhammad corrupted them.

Islamic scholars try valiantly to paint the pre-Islamic period, called Jahiliyyah, or Period of Ignorance, in the worst possible light. They demonize Arabs to make the resulting Islamic society, arguably the most ignorant and brutal in history, look good by comparison. But what little evidence we have of these people, their lives, and customs, indicates that they didn't act foolishly. Unlike their descendants in the twenty-first century, seventh-century Arabs were a free, peace-loving people who cherished family values and honored tribal commitments.

Reliant on springs, most nomadic Bedouins provided sustenance by cultivating date palms, herding sheep, working leather, or running caravans. Their parched land was known for scrub, the hearty camel, and wide-open spaces. With the rain clouds blocked by the ragged mountains of Syria, Israel, Jordan, and western Arabia, more often than not the harbingers of life merely teased the land that became Muhammad's.

It was these very conditions that made it impregnable. The roads that enabled the armies of Babylon, Assyria, Persia, Egypt, Greece, and Rome to conquer and control much of the world were difficult to build and impossible to maintain. And there was no incentive. Virtually nothing of value originated from this barren realm. It only served as a dry ocean to be crossed when carrying goods from producer to consumer. But since the Arabian Peninsula was surrounded by seas and the most vital of rivers, circumnavigating it was always easier than passing through. The land Muhammad coveted was a foreboding wasteland, a place that time had forgotten.

Whispers and faint echoes were all Arabs knew of the world surrounding them. Over time they came to hear of the gods of Nimrod and Babylon. Similar gods rose in Egypt, Greece, and Rome. They blended man, beast, and sky into palpable superstitions that elevated rulers to deity. The inventors and keepers of divine trust - god's coconspirators and messengers - crafted schemes designed to make their subjects submit, pay, and obey.

By the seventh century, Arabs had also heard of the two great monotheistic religions. Stories of the Jews, their patriarch Abraham, and his God Yahweh, were commonplace. Moses was known as the great liberator, David and Solomon as kings. Following their captivity in Babylon, many Jews settled in Arabia, especially in the oasis town of Yathrib. They told the Bedouins that they were kindred spirits of sorts. The Torah claimed both peoples, Arabs and Jews, were descendants of Abraham. The Arabs traced their lineage through Ishmael, embarrassing in that he was the bastard son of a slave girl. The real heir to Yahweh's covenant was Isaac, born to Abraham's wife Sarah. Innocent enough, such notice would loom large.

The nomads of Arabia also knew something of Christianity, which by the sixth century was the most pervasive force, albeit peaceful, in the civilized world. While Christian ideals were winning converts in the literate realms of Egypt, Rome, Greece, and Persia, such was not the case in Arabia. There, Christians were being persecuted with a vengeance - not by Arabs, but by a Jew named Dhu Nuwas, who had risen to power in Yemen. This, too, would have haunting echoes, for the Christian faith was reduced to a faint whisper compared to that of the Jews. Moreover, the "turn the other cheek" message of Yahshua didn't play well in a society reliant on revenge to maintain order. So the Arabs lived suspended between the monotheism of the west and the swirling superstitions of the east.

Allegiance to tribe and family kept these people grounded. The nomads lived without police, laws, or judges, as there were too few to govern. Clashes between tribes occurred, but were usually settled by one raiding the other's flock - a goat for a goat. It was often a game played for bragging rights. They despised treachery and deceit. In skirmishes, honor was more important than victory. The subjugation of another tribe was never contemplated. Early Arabs were neither passive nor aggressive. Surviving was battle enough.

They practiced a crude form of Hammurabi's Laws 2,500 years after they had been written. Murder was avenged by murder, theft by theft, insult by insult. To facilitate commerce, tribal alliances were formed by politically minded princes. More militant than the local tribal chiefs, they occasionally waged skirmishes in pursuit of plunder and power. Like Islam's prophet, their sphere of influence grew at the point of a sword. Sir John Glubb, a student of Islam and life-long resident of Arabia, explains, "These peculiarities are important to the career of Muhammad. The Prophet became a man of political and military authority, so the Bedouins saw him not so much as the Messenger of Allah, but as a new prince." Entertained lavishly in his company, tribal chiefs were often enticed to align their clans with his movement.

From what we can tell, Arabs were prone to superstition and addicted to poetry - factors that would loom large in the formation of Islam. Poetry conceived by Hanifs became the initial ingredient in Muhammad's religion. The Hanifs were monotheists, believing that they shared the legacy of Abraham. Early on, Muhammad aligned himself with them, calling his religion Hanifism. Later, in a struggle for power, he renamed his crusade "Submission" and waged a war of words, then swords, against those who had inspired him.

It is interesting that all of the positive values extolled by Muhammad's Lord Ar-Rahman in the first forty Qur'anic surahs were a subset of Bedouin values and Hanif beliefs. They promoted the protection of the weak, charity, and good deeds. Sadly, much of this would be abrogated, as would the nature of Muhammad's god. He became Allah, vengeful, paranoid, deceitful, dreadfully nasty, and violent. Allah became Muhammad's alter ego - indistinguishable and inseparable.

While Arabs were principally pagan, thus polytheistic, there was no religious prejudice or persecution in the land, and monotheism was spreading rapidly. A large concentration of Jews, a remnant of the Babylonian captivity twelve centuries prior, lived unmolested in a town they had helped build, the thriving agricultural community of Yathrib, today's Medina. Their number was thought to be around thirty thousand - a tremendous concentration of people considering the nature of the land they occupied.

Two hundred miles south of Yathrib lay Mecca. It was nestled in a narrow, dry, and stony valley a quarter of a mile wide and a mile and a half long. The mountains on either side were rugged and devoid of vegetation, naked. Unlike Yathrib, Mecca was sterile. There was too little water for agriculture. There were no trees and far too little grass for productive grazing. The village was a collection of mud huts. Neither hewn stones nor bricks, even hand-formed and sun-dried, were to be found anywhere. In this regard, Mecca lagged behind the developed world by three millennia.

There were no roofs in Mecca, as there was no timber. With no timber, there were no carpenters. Blistering winds and encroaching sands were the lot of rich and poor. No one escaped the elements. Every hut was open to the scorching heat of the day and chill of the desert night. And exposure was not without pain. There are few places as unappealing. If Jerusalem and Israel are the world's heart and aorta, Mecca and Arabia are the dust between her toes. I do not say this to be disparaging, but to provide a point of reference, a necessary contrast, between the places and the claims made about them.

The stateliest "structure" in Mecca was the Ka'aba, a shrine of sorts that Allah, the moon god, shared with idols like Hubal. Their "House" consisted of four walls. It was an open, crude, and roofless cube in the sixth century, having nearly succumbed to gravity and flash floods. Constructed of local rock, totally un-hewn and un-mortared, it was as ignoble as the idols it housed - mostly stones. Hubal was the only graven image. Lord only knows how they distinguished between the gods and the "building."

Glubb tells us, "It is interesting that most Arabian idols do not seem to have been modeled after human beings, as were those of Greece and Rome.... Idolaters in all ages have denied that they worshipped an image made by hands, but have claimed that they prayed to the spirit which dwelt in it. The Arabic language has a word for a stone believed to be the abode of a deity. Many Arabs believed that a blessing could be obtained by kissing or rubbing such a stone." As we shall discover, kissing and fondling Allah's Black Stone was something Muhammad did with reverence and regularity.

Apart from the Ka'aba, Mecca was nothing. Isolated, the little burg of perhaps five thousand inhabitants made nothing, grew nothing. It was a long, hard ride to the civilizations of the Mediterranean. Ships passed to the west, caravans to the east. Mecca was controlled by a conniving lot, a tribe called the Quraysh, the clan of Muhammad. What we know about them is derived exclusively from Islamic Traditions, Muslim oral reports.

The Quraysh history, as best we can piece it together from the Islamic scripture, goes something like this: The Khuza'a tribe from the south ousted the Jurhum clan from a tent encampment called Mecca around 400 A.D. Tabari explains: "The Jurhum acted badly, stealing sacrifices that had been presented to the Ka'aba." They were "oppressive." Ishaq agrees: "The Jurhum were heavy-handed, guilty of taboos, and treated the Ka'aba gifts as their own. A battle ensued and the Khuza'a expelled the Jurhum from Mecca." The Jurhum's legacy was: "the two gazelles of the Ka'aba and the cornerstone which they buried in the well of Zamzam. They retreated to Yemen bitterly grieved at losing control of the Ka'aba."

Why would losing control of a dilapidated rock shrine dedicated to rock gods grieve the dearly departed? The answer has far-reaching implications, implications that would ultimately topple a pair of towers on the other side of the world. The plot, as they say, is about to thicken.

On their own merits, the Ka'aba, Mecca, and Quraysh would be among the least important places and people on earth, for the world is awash in illiterate pagans, mud huts, and rock shrines. But as a result of Qusayy's ingenuity and Muhammad's bravado, they would become the raison d'etre of Islam. Mecca, the Ka'aba, and its Black Stone, would ultimately become freedom's most fierce adversaries.

If the Islamic scripture is even partially accurate, Allah and the Ka'aba predated Muhammad by five generations. He didn't invent them. Nor did he conceive the pagan rituals, fairs, holy months, fasts, prostrations, taxes, and pilgrimages that made these things worth owning. In the preceding chapters we studied how the Bible was corrupted to give Allah, the Ka'aba, Mecca, and Islam's pagan rites a religious veneer. But why is considerably more important, considerably more revealing. To appreciate Islam for what it really is, we must first come to understand Muhammad's motivation for deriving a new monotheistic doctrine from an old assemblage of pagan idols. We must come to know why Islam's prophet incorporated his people's crude rites into his new religion. In that his revelations were less than inspired, there must have been something that inspired him to promote a stone.

Yes, Muhammad and his fellow Meccans worshiped rocks. Lacking craftsmanship, artistry, and tools, they were unable to make the elegant statuary synonymous with other religious idols. The most interesting stones became gods. Most had personal names. The biggest rock, thereby the biggest god of the Ka'aba, was Allah. His oval stone was a dark reddish-brown. But Allah was a fractured deity. With time and abuse he had been splintered into seven chips, all banded together. Compared to the devotion his fragments enjoy, the pieces are rather small; combined they are only eleven by fifteen inches. Today, the chips are imbedded in the southeastern corner of the Ka'aba, four feet above the ground. But Allah is no ordinary assemblage of minerals. He, like fellow Islamic god, Ar-Rahman, had a pre-Islamic past. And, as we have seen, Muslims have a variety of entertaining accounts of how they were graced by such an auspicious token of the universe's creator. But before we entertain the justifications for promoting a pair of pagan stones, lets look at Allah and Ar-Rahman through the eyes of a historian.

Stone cults were neither uncommon nor uncivilized. Even the Greeks were wont to worship stones. Apollo was once believed to be a meteorite in Delphi. His sanctuary was thought to be the center of the earth. Robert Charroux, in Masters of the World , explained, "Helenius, the son of Priam and a famous Greek soothsayer, could foretell the future by means of a stone that had been given to him by Apollo. To obtain the oracle of the gods, he shook the stone above his head and recited the incantations. The stone then spoke in a strange, faint voice and announced the future." And so it would be; a millennia later Muhammad would heed the summons of another talking stone.

But the Black Stone and its House were hardly unique. There were many such temples, called tawaghits, scattered across Arabia. Patrons made sacrifices and left gifts to their stone of choice, prostrated themselves in prayer, and circumambulated the shrines. Most commanded hajj and umrah pilgrimages during holy months. Those seeking the rock's blessing would commonly rub themselves against the stone and kiss it reverently.

The Islamic scripture agrees: Ishaq:38 "Every house had an idol which they worshiped. They would rub the stone for good luck. When Allah sent Muhammad with the message of monotheism, the Quraysh said: 'Would he make many gods into one god? This is a strange thing." Unfortunately for Islam, many false gods do not one true god make.

Ishaq:38 "Now along with the Ka'aba, the Arabs had adopted Tawaghits, temples they venerated like the Ka'aba. They, too, had their custodians. They used to circumambulate them." According to the Islamic scriptures, Allah was one of many pagan rock idols, the Ka'aba was one of many pagan rock shrines. Islamic circumambulation was one of many pagan rites. Ishaq:38 "Al-Lat was in a Tawaghit Temple in Fa'if which was venerated like the Ka'aba." Ishaq:38 "Luhayy put Al-Uzza in a Nakhla Tawaghit. When they had finished their Ka'aba Hajj they circumambulated Al-Uzza. The Quraysh worshiped her. Manat was worshiped by the Aus and Khazraj in Yathrib." Those who prayed to Al-Uzza and Manat, Ishaq:39 "shaved their heads and completed all of the rites associated with the Hajj." Yet these men were pagans. How did their rituals become part of Islam and why?

Muslims are compelled to observe the same rituals today. The Black Stone, its House, the prostration, kissing, circumambulation, shaving, the hajj, umrah, and holy months somehow migrated from a pagan past to orthodox Islam by way of corrupted Jewish scriptures. The most telling of these tales is the one in which Muhammad and Allah claimed that Abraham smashed lesser idols so that his people might turn to the largest one.

A quartz god was worshiped in Tabhalah, an oasis town seven days journey from Mecca. Sad was the rock deity in the region of Juddah along the Red Sea, west of Mecca. Ishaq:39 "Many Arabs served an idol named Dhu'l-Khalasa. Himyar had a temple called Ri'am. Ruda was the temple of the Banu Rabi'a. Dhu'l-Ka'abat belonged to the Banu Bakr. Bahira was the filly of the Sa'iba. Hami was their stallion. Wasila was a ewe. Muhammad said, 'Allah has not made Bahira, Wasila, or Hami. And those who do not agree invent lies.'"

We are told that the Azds and Nabateans bowed to "Dhu'l-al-Shara in his shrine in Petra." He was a proud god with a large rectangular stone and elegant temple to match. Like Allah, Dhu'l-al-Shara was a reddish brown rock. Fellow moon gods could be found in Marib, Hureidha, and Tayma. Il Umquh was the Sabean moon god in Marib. In Hureidha, the god was Sin, named after the famous moon god of the Chaldeans in Ur. The last Babylonian king, Nabonidus, built an elaborate tawaghit in Tayma to his moon god while in exile. The moon god of Mecca, Allah, lived, if we may be so bold, in the heart of moon god country.

Bukhari:V6B60N374 "We were in the Prophet's company in the middle of the lunar month. He looked at the moon and said, 'You will see your Lord as you see this moon.'" This reverence to the moon was hardly a flight of fancy. In the 8th chapter of Judges, there's a three thousand-year-old Bible reference: "The Ishmaelites hung crescent moon ornaments from their camel's necks." So today, when you look up and see crescent moons decorating Muslim mosques and flags, you'll know that the Arabian love affair with the moon has survived thirty centuries.

Yet this affair was no more monogamous than Islam. Even in his neighborhood, Allah had competition. The sun god Manaf was worshiped by the Quraysh, as was Hubal, a handsome idol carved into the shape of a man.

Allah's daughters, Al-Uzza, Al-Lat, and Manat, being chips off the old block, were stones. Manat was symbolized by a darkened moon, eerily reminiscent of Islam today. She was the goddess of fate and commanded her subjects to shave their heads when approaching her. Being a good pagan, when Muhammad fulfilled his umrah pilgrimage in Mecca, he shaved his head in Manat's presence. This pagan practice was invested with godly overtones when Muhammad insisted that Abraham had done likewise. Later, Muhammad honored the pagan goddess Manat by incorporating predestination into Islam and by using her insignia as the logo of his "new" religion.

Not to be outdone, Al-Lat had her own shrine in Ta'if, near Mecca. A cubic rock, she lived on barley porridge. While her diet was humble, her veneration was not. Her temple lies under the left minaret of the early Islamic mosque of Ta'if. Al-Lat's sister, the goddess Al-Uzza, was considerably younger and lived in the Hurad valley. A Quraysh favorite, she received the most lavish gifts and sacrifices. Muhammad saw her as a nude black woman.

Interestingly enough, Islam itself was nearly sacrificed at the altar of Allah's three little girls. In a weaker moment the prophet said that the goddesses Al-Lat, Al-Uzza, and Manat were conduits to Allah, intermediaries. But then when the monotheistic wing of his religion objected to four pagan gods being three too many, the prophet confessed that he had been inspired by Satan. Islam as a religion died that day in Mecca, only to be reborn as a political doctrine in Yathrib the following year. But we're getting ahead of our story.


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