MUHAMMAD & ISLAM: Stories not told before.
By Mohammad Asghar
PART - 1
Long time ago, a tiny spot in the midst of the Arabian Peninsula, became a focal point for all the Pagan Bedouins of the desert for the reason that it had on its bosom the House of God, also known as the Ka'aba, along with a well, the pagans called Zumzum, which helped them quench their killing thirst.
The pagans were a deeply religious people. They held the view that there was a god to cover each aspect of their lives. Consequently, they believed that there was a god who gave them life. They also believed that the same god gave them sustenance and protected them from all hazards of their lives. They further believed that there were other gods who rained water from the sky and made them successful in their battles.
There was a tribe, called Quraish, among the pagans, which was intelligent and enterprising. Its members preferred sedentary life to a nomadic life.
Capitalizing on other Bedouin tribes' religious devotions as well as their lack of preference to a sedentary life, the members of the Quraish tribe installed themselves in Mecca, around the House of God and the well of Zumzum, with the aim to cater to the religious needs of their nomadic and sedentary brethren. They had the inside and outside of the House of God staked with three hundred and sixty idols, which all of the pagans venerated and worshipped.
Over a period of time, the spot first came to be known as Bakka (3:96) and then Mecca. The Quraish tribe was its virtual occupants due to the fact that some of its powerful members perpetually controlled the supervision, and the religious rituals, of the House of God.
The members of the Quraish tribe consisted of three groups. One was the priestly group, which controlled the House of God, and sustained itself on the income that the House generated for it from the pilgrims. The second group consisted of a small number of the Quraish people who engaged themselves in trade. The third group was large, and it consisted of the people who sustained themselves by providing water and other services to the pilgrims. This occupation of theirs did not guarantee them a regular income; when they had a large number of pilgrims, they earned a good living, but when the number of the pilgrims declined, so did their income. Those people can be compared with our modern-day day laborers; they get paid only when they are employed for active service.
Over 1,400 years ago, there lived in Mecca a man by the name of Abdullah. He belonged to the third group of the Quraish people. His wife's name was Amina. Because he did not have a consistent income, his household often suffered from deprivations. Many a times, the couple had to go to bed without food. Persistent poverty took its toll; the couple frequently fought and argued on their financial condition as well as on what was likely to happen to them in future.
Recognizing the fact that she and her husband did not have the means to feed another mouth, Amina always forced her man to ejaculate his semen outside her vagina. This practice helped her to avoid pregnancy for sometime, but one night Abdullah failed to control himself, and she ended up being a pregnant woman.
Amina was angry. She tried her best to destroy the pregnancy, but failed.
Unable to do anything else with her conception, she resigned to her fate and decided to carry her pregnancy to its full term. Abdullah, her husband, felt for her discomforts and sought to help by providing her with the services of a slave-girl, named Barakat.
But as misfortune would have it, Amina's husband died when she was about six months into her pregnancy. This tragedy increased her hatred towards the child she was carrying in her belly. She considered it to be the harbinger of a bad luck. She feared that many more mishaps would befall her after she delivered the jinxed baby.
At the time of his death, Abdullah is believed to have owned five camels, a few sheep and a female slave of Ethiopian origin, named Barakat.
Not being able to do anything else to alleviate her fear, she carried the fetus until it was ready to take birth as a baby-boy. When the time finally arrived, she delivered the baby without a hitch.
Amina called the baby-boy Kothan, but his grandfather changed it to Muhammad at a later date (see R. V. C. Bodley's The Messenger, p. 6).
Contrary to the general belief, Muhammad is not a Muslim name; rather, it is an Arabian pagan name that was in use even before the birth of Islam's founder.
Genealogically, it is claimed that Muhammad was a descendent of Ismail who, as the Bible implies, was an illegitimate son of Abraham, born of Hagar, an Egyptian handmaid of his wedded wife, Sarah (Genesis, 16:1-15). It was this son, the majority of Muslims believe, whom Abraham attempted to sacrifice upon God's command in a dream, and who, as a consequence, earned the heavenly title of "Zabi-Ullah," i.e. "the one to be sacrificed in the name of God" - - - not his legitimate son Isaac, as claimed by the Book of Genesis.
The actual date of Muhammad's birth is not known, nor can it be ascertained now. The scholarly hypothesis on this issue is at some variance. Philip K. Hitti says that he was born in or around 571 AD (History of the Arabs, p. 111). Abdullah Yusuf Ali maintains, "The year usually given for the Prophet's birth is 570 A.D, though the date must be taken as only approximate, being the middle figure between 569 and 571, the extreme possible limits."(The Holy Quran, V. 2, p. 1071).
The discrepancy in the year of Muhammad's birth notwithstanding, some Muslims categorically maintain that he was born in the early hours of Monday, the 29th day of August, 570 A.D (See Ghulam Mustafa, Vishva Nabi, p. 40). - - an occasion that they observe each year with great fanfare. Contrary to this, and as is the case with Jesus Christ, the year of Muhammad's birth cannot, in fact, be established with reliable historical evidence. The celebrations that are held now to celebrate Muhammad's birth, therefore, have no Islamic basis and these are mere traditions only.
At the time of Muhammad's birth, the Arabs lived in a state of moral decadence. Though the institution of marriage existed among the Arabs for its namesake, they pursued extramarital sex at whim. On the subject of the Arabs' fornication, Maxime Rodinson quotes Rabbi Wathan:
Nowhere in the world was there such a propensity towards fornication as among the Arabs, just as nowhere was there any power like that of Persia, or wealth like that of Rome, or magic like that of Egypt. If all the sexual license in the world were divided into ten parts, nine of these would be distributed among the Arabs and the tenth would be enough for all the other races (Muhammad, p. 54, as translated by Anne Carter)
R. V. C Bodley tacitly concurred with Wathan, saying:
There was Amr Ibn al As, the son of a beautiful Meccan prostitute. All the better Meccans were her friends, so that anyone, from Abu Sofian down, might have been Amr's father. As far as anyone could be sure, he might have called himself Amr Ibn Abu Lahab, or Ibn al Abbas or Ibn anyone else among the Koreishite upper ten. According to Meccan standards of that time, it did not matter who had sired him (In his book, The Messenger, p. 73).
According to historians, Muhammad was born during this period of time, and in one of the ten upper class Quraish families of Mecca. To these people, it did not matter who had fathered whom. All children born under this condition must have always faced the question over the legitimacy of their mothers' conceptions!
In spite of becoming the mother of a son, whom her society greatly valued, Amina continued to maintain her hatred towards the newborn boy. In order to take her vengeance out, she refused to suckle him, even when he was hungry.
Seeing the child's suffering and to help him survive, Thuwaibah, a slave-girl of the child's uncle Abu Lahab, took upon herself the responsibility to breastfeed him for a few days (see Adil Salahi's Muhammad: Man and Prophet, p. 23) until someone else was found to take him into her permanent custody.
In the period Muhammad was born, poor Bedouins from the desert used to flock, from time to time, to Mecca to collect alms from those few who could afford to give it to them. Following the tradition, Haleema, a poor Saadite shepherd woman, came and knocked at Amina's door. Being herself a poor widowed woman, Amina had nothing to offer Haleema; instead, she wished to unload her own burden by putting her newborn son into her lap.
Haleema was dumbfounded, for, in her judgment, no mother would ever dispose of her baby in the manner Amina wanted hers disposed. Knowing well her own situation, Haleema, at first, refused to accept the custody of the child, but when she considered the fact that she would have, in due course of time, two more hands to help her family out in its dire circumstances, she took the baby and left for her home.
Haleema's tribe lived in one of the pastoral valleys of Northern Arabia. Though they were poor, yet they always maintained their industrious and bold characters. Unlike the people of the Quraish tribe, the people of the Saadite tribe excelled in the use of sword and lances. Their dexterous use of swords and lances always earned them triumphs in the struggles that they had to face almost regularly, and perpetually, in order to survive in the harsh conditions and environments of their surroundings.
The people of the Saadite tribe were also renowned for speaking the most refined Arabic in all of Arabia. The similarity of the Quran's language with that of the Saaditic Arabic is the indication that the writer of the Quran must have been one of the Saadites, or that he must have lived among them during his formative years.
The entire population of the Arabian Peninsula believed in the existence of angels. They also believed that angels pay visits to people who were destined to receive special favors from Allah. This deity lived in and around the Ka'aba along with other 359 gods. Because the Arabs believed in the angels' closeness to Allah, many of them took up their worship with the hope that once pleased, the angels would have no difficulty in convincing Allah to grant them relief from their endless sufferings.
Haleema's son, Masroud, was almost of Muhammad's age. She began rearing up both the infants in her right earnest. She suckled both of them and cared for them equally. She looked forward to the day when those two infants would grow up and provide her with the help she always needed to make her life somewhat pleasant.
In the interlude she rarely enjoyed, Haleema, being a loving and caring mother, often used to mull over the future of Masroud, her own son. She was the product of the Bedouin life; she herself had been living such a life. Her long experience convinced her that no matter how industrious and brave her son was, the bareness of the desert and the conditions that obtained in it, would never afford him an opportunity to live a life that could even distantly be compared with the one that some people of Mecca lived. She, therefore, wanted her son to go to Mecca to live there a comfortable life.
But how was she going to send her son to Mecca? she consistently asked herself.
Haleema thought and thought. Lost in it, she spent many, many nights without sleep. Even during the day, her mind remained occupied with her only thought: how to induct Masroud, with a secured base, into the Meccan life.
Her constant and persistent exploration of possibilities eventually paid the dividend. It dawned on her that she could achieve her ambition easily, if she arranged to return Muhammad to his mother in Mecca with an undetectable switch. The switching plan required Haleema simply to have Muhammad substituted by Masroud and plant him in Amina's house where, she knew for sure, there was none who could ever suspect or question his identity.
Pleased with her plan, Haleema began working on its implementation. First of all, she needed to call Muhammad Masroud, and Masroud Muhammad. At the beginning, the infants appeared a little confused, but after a short period of time, they got used to the change. And this change proved hugely instrumental in turning around the destinies of two innocents infants; one of them was going to change, undeservedly, the face of the earth; the other was going to live, undeservedly for him, too, the life of an anonymous Bedouin.
The second step of the plan required Haleema to create a situation that would facilitate her son's plantation in Amina's house. This step required her to conceive a scenario that would not only fit in the pagans' age-old belief, it would also soften Amina's attitude towards her son whom she despised from the core of her heart. And what could be a better scenario than the following, which she made use of in order to convince Amina that her son was really a prodigious child.
No sooner had Muhammad stepped into the fifth year of his life, Haleema began telling everyone she came across about the prodigious nature of her adopted son. She took special pleasure in narrating the child's encounter with two angels whom, she claimed, her own son Masroud, had seen with his own eyes, surrounding Muhammad in a broad daylight.
Pressed for details, she used to tell her listeners that one day, Masroud and Muhammad were playing in field. While they were engrossed in their play, from nowhere, two angels appeared before Muhammad.
They laid him gently on the ground, and Gabriel, one of the two angels, opened up the boy's heart. He cleansed it from impurity; wrung from it those black and bitter drops of the sin that we inherited from our forefather Adam, and which lurk in the hearts of the best of his descendents, inciting them to the commission of sin. When infant Muhammad had been thoroughly purified, Gabriel filled his heart with faith and knowledge and prophetic light, and then he replaced it in his bosom.
During this angelic visitation, Haleema told her listeners, the angels also impressed between Muhammad's shoulders the seal of prophecy. To prove her claim, she used to make Muhammad bare his body so that those people who doubted her sanity could see with their own eyes the mark that existed between his shoulders.
Haleema had to resort to this cunning tactic in order to hide a serious problem: The child that was born to Amina bore no mark at the back of his body; whereas Masroud had a distinctive birth mark between his shoulders. Now, if Haleema had not invented the story of the angels who, she had to claim, impressed Muhammad's body with "the seal of prophecy," her entire scheme would have been jeopardized, and her desire to plant her son in Amina's house frustrated.
The ground thus prepared for his return to his mother, Haleema carried Muhammad to Mecca and sought to deposit him on Amina's lap. Seeing her reluctance, Haleema narrated to her all that that had happened to Muhammad, and also the affixation of the seal of prophecy by the angels on his back. Considerably mellowed down by Haleema's account of the child's supernatural expositions, Amina took back her son.
Haleema returned to her home in the desert, with the satisfaction that she succeeded in placing her son in a Meccan home where he would grow into a man and then find for himself a place to lead a life, filled with relative abundance and peace.
Muhammad remained with Amina until his sixth year, although he often missed Haleema, his biological mother. He played with the local children; joined them in their merrymaking games; watched pilgrims praying at the temple of Ka'aba and welcomed and said goodbyes to the caravans that halted at the city before departing for their trading destinations. All the activities of the city fascinated him, for he found them to be quite different from the ones he saw and grew up with in the land of his birth.
Despite the antagonism that Amina had harbored against him following his birth, she treated him fairly well after his return from the desert. She fed him to the best of her ability; clothed him to the extent it was necessary and took care of his well being as well. She also took him around in the city and introduced him to his near as well as distant relatives.
After a few months of his return to Mecca, Amina took Muhammad to Medina and introduced him to her maternal relatives there. On her journey homeward, she died and was buried at Abwa, a village that lied between Medina and Mecca. Barakat, the slave-girl, now acted as a mother of the orphan child and delivered him to his grandfather Abd al Mutallib in whose household he was destined to spend three years of his life.
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