Myths are stories of invention, imaginary or fictitious, without a determinable basis of fact or natural rationale. But, in practice, some that are held in belief by gullible spiritual aspirants lead to severe debilitating consequences, regardless of the degrees of literacy or educational pedigree of the adherent. They remain in use to ‘ rationalise ‘ inferior customs in social institutions, some of which are stark and abominable. and for holding and propagating popular memes that promote regressive values and drive people to subhuman conduct.
Here are a few myths of ignorance that I have found tellingly dark and macabre in their effects …
Allah, the divinity of the self-projecting Prophet of Islam : This event needs a closer look in its historical context. Especially since its tenets bears upon its adherents, with all the authority it appropriates, never to question or doubt.
The U.S. government designated Iran, 12 times in a row, as a “Country of Particular Concern” (CPC) for severe violations of religious freedom. The new report indicates that rhetoric and actions originating from the Iranian government have created a threatening atmosphere for nearly all non-Shiite religious groups – among them Baha’is, Christians, Jews, and Mandaeans – groups that do not share the government’s official religious views.
The same could be said of the Sunni regime in Saudi Arabia and Pakistan, and in countries that have overthrown ruling caucus in Arab Spring revolutions. It has been worse in previous centuries, going as far back as the Hijri era marked with Muhammad’s flight from Mecca to Medina. My interest in this inferior and regressive societies is not for reform but transformation of that belief-system that prevents its humanity to choose, question and doubt. it threatens to endanger the rest of the human world, order and being.
The facts point to a truth : Moderation will remain an alien concept in Islam because of the immensely intense emotional balloon it cocoons its adherents, making living on the balance impossible. It is this, in practice, which accounts for their choice-less and dictated culture and repressive, controlled structures in religious, social and political realms. It becomes especially necessary for it to institute itself over an area and its people while surrounded by non-Islamic polities enjoying progression, democracy, freedoms, education and creativity.
As with any transformation process, this needs awareness of oneself. It needs to be recalled that the Arab Muslim civilisation did not start in the 7th Century, with the rise of a middle-aged epileptic man who announced himself to be a prophet. It goes back to about 5000 years before. There is evidence of rich agriculture practiced in south Arabian region including Yemen and Oman.
Nearer the Prophet epoch, we have Mazdak, a Persian reformer and religious activist who died c. 524 or 528, He ideas gained prominence in the Arab world of his time and the man himself acquired much influence under the Sassanian reign of Shahanshah Kavadh I. He claimed to be a prophet of God and drove his religio-communal vision over proto-socialist social welfare programs he instituted under his supervision. If much of the same thing is evident in the Muslim world, driven by State and extra-State actors, the roots lie in the Prophet himself usurping Mazdek’s vision and adopting his ways.
Mazdak was the chief representative of a religious and philosophical teaching called Mazdakism, which he viewed as a reformed and purified version of Zoroastrianism, although his teaching has been argued to display influences from Manichaeism as well. Zoroastrianism was the dominant religion of Sassanid Persia, and Mazdak himself was a Zoroastrian priest, or mobed, but most of the Zoroastrian clergy regarded his teaching as heresy.
Sources claim that the original founder of Mazdakism was a Zoroastrian philosopher known as Mazdak the Elder, who taught a combination of altruism and hedonism : “he directed his followers to enjoy the pleasures of life and satisfy their appetite in the highest degree with regard to eating and drinking in the spirit of equality, to aim at good deeds; to abstain from shedding blood and inflicting harm on others; and to practice hospitality without reservation”. The doctrine was developed by Mazdak the Younger, son of Bāmdād. Later, Mazdak was blamed for heresy and for sharing of women etc. in the spirit of community.
As the first real socialists among Arabs who emphasized community work, identity and collective welfare, Mazdek must have quite an impact. Much of Islam, the community of people, is modeled on the Mazdekinian vision. Is that also why the Prophet acquired his wives, all but one by divined right, from both enemies and followers ?
Like both Zoroastrianism as practiced at the time and Manichaeism, Mazdakism had a dualistic cosmology and worldview.[ The doctrine laid two original principles of the universe : Light, the good, and Darkness, the evil one. The two were mixed by a cosmic accident, tainting everything except God. Light is characterized by knowledge and awareness, and acts by design and free will, whereas Darkness manifest as ignorance, blindness, and acts at random of fancy and willfulness. That, mankind’s role in life was to release parts of himself that belonged to Light, through deliberate alignment and good conduct,. But where Manichaeism saw the mixture of good and bad as a cosmic tragedy, as does Islam, Mazdak viewed this in a more neutral, even optimistic way.
Mani, the prophet and Manichæus apostle of Jesus Christ, made his attempt to succeed and surpass the ways of Christianity, Zoroastrianism and Buddhism. So does the Prophet and declares his religion, Islam.
Mani provisioned in advance a cave which had a spring and informed his disciples that he was going to heaven, and would not return for a year, after which time they were to seek him in the cave he had spoken about. The people, it is reported, went to the cave and found their teacher, who showed to them an illustrated book called Ergenk, or Estenk, which he said he had brought from heaven, whereupon he gained many followers with whom he returned to Persia.
The entire narration is uncannily similar to how Muhammad pushed himself and his vision to power. But he must have also been familiar with the danger of making such an attempt. The new Iranian king, Hormisdas, joined and protected the sect; and built Mani a castle. The next king, Bahram or Varanes, at first favoured Mani but, after his debate with Zoroastrian teachers, had him flayed alive; his skin stuffed and hung to public view. Thereupon most of his followers fled to India, and some even to China. Those who remained were reduced to slavery.
With Mani’s example being a widely known, one can see why Muhammad loved the sword, the need for military buildup and the utility of enslaving the opposition, if not killed.
The Mandaeans still total about 60,000 to 70,000 in population spread over Iraq, Iran, Jordan and Syria, and several countries they have since migrated to. Muhammad learnt his lessons well. No matter the blood and human capital laid waste, Islam is a billion strong community.