Islam – Prehistory, Myths & Present (IV)


Pre – Islam And The New Religion : Dominance and Discord

Age of the Caliphs
Age of the Caliphs (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Islam is more than a religion. It also conceives of a state upholding a totalitarian political ideology that aims to overthrow all systems of governments and establish a worldwide theocratic dictatorship. In that aspect, Islam is comparable with Marxist-Leninism, Maoism, erstwhile Colonial excuse of “white man’s burden,” and Vatican’s programme for “growing its flock” through induced conversions.

There are some materials on which to base a description of pre-Islamic religion, particularly in Mecca and the Hejaz, a region in the west of present-day Saudi Arabia. The book originally compiled by Ibn Ishaq around 740 AD, The biography of the Prophet, gives an insight into the conditions pervailing in Mecca around Prophet’s time. The Qur’an, and the Hadith with recorded oral traditions, give some hints as well. Islamic commentators have elaborated these hints into an account that, while coherent, is doubted by academics in part or in whole.

Many of the tribes in Arabia practiced Judaism. Christianity is known to have been active in the region before the rise of Islam, especially unorthodox, possibly gnostic forms of it. Before the emergence of Islam, the Ka’aba in Mecca housed the idols of 360 Arab deities and would eventually be destroyed by the followers of Muhammad, when the prophet took the city in 630 CE. Muhammad’s pre-revelation beliefs came from the Hanifs, derived from Rabi`ah Bedouins; they were a group of Arab monotheists in the Abrahamic tradition.

Some of the elders of Muhammad’s Quraish family, and Muhammad himself when he was young, were in fact the most ardent worshippers and priests at the Kaaba shrine, around which the whole of the transit town came up. The great change which the self-declared prophet later sought to effect was seen as needless, monumentally hideous, and unviable to boot. He had it imposed through force and fear. Most apostasised after Muhammad’s death, and the same methodology had to be adopted all over again by Abu Bakr.

The people of Mecca, and subsequently of the rest of Asia, opposed the monochromatic beliefs of Islam and the dry artless way of life it recommended, such as are in practice even today in the Arabian peninsula. Contrary to how most people in Asia lived, the Islamic society was without individual freedoms of expression and thought, music and choice of avenues for creative fulfillment. It was way different, abominal to many, from the free and colourful way in which people before its rise or outside its pale lived, dressed and believed, expressed sadness and joy, worshipped and sang, and partook in each other’s lives without a religious authority cracking a whip, snooping upon them and regulating their priorities.

No religious wars were fought among people in North Arabia untill then, though the South saw such battles between Jews and Christians, particulary when Nu Dhuwas converted to Judaism. Muhammad’s new religion brought irreconciliable values into their midst, which finally led to ”jihad” and genocide at Medina. For a time, Muhammad embraced the peace of Sakina – the spirit of tranquillity related to the Hebrew Shekhinah. He agreed to terms in the Treaty of Hudaybiyah, but only for a while. When he had the force of numbers, the ‘prophet of peace’ turned away from the spirit of concord and marched upon Mecca, smashed the idols of Kaaba, and ordered the slave singer Sarah to be killed the same day. Other singers, who sang in praise of beauty and diversity, had their tongues cut out. Centuries old shrines of the Goddess were desecrated and destroyed.

Before Islam, the Kaaba was a holy shrine where all religions were respected. From time to time, leading thinkers and poets would converge at Kaaba in that spirit of cooperation, made it possible by their acceptance of all manner of viable life views. The place provided a space of indwelling tranquility, in which women were safe from any threat of violence or enforced cloistering. They were able to freely express themselves and act as they saw fit. It was the home ground in which both sexes could meet in safety from repression, where all people could describe their life accounts and spiritual experiences on an equal footing. 

*  *  *

Gabriel disclosed the ‘truth’ to Muhammad in the mountain cave of Hira Parvat and gave Muhammad the Quran. I do not know what to make of the fact that the name ” Hira Parvat ” consists of two words with origins in the Indian sub-continent; both the terms ” hira ” and ” parvat ” are still commonly used by natives of the Indian peninsula when they wish to mean “diamond” and “mountain” !

Allah” was a pre-existing deity in pagan Arabia. In pre-Islamic days, which Muslims refer to as Jahaliyah or “Covered In Ignorance,” or Days of Ignorance, the religious background of the Arabs was pagan and animistic. Through moon, sun, stars, planets, animals, wells, trees, stones, caves, springs and other natural objects, people could establish a connection with their respective deity.

At Mecca, “Allah” was the chief of the gods and the special deity of the Quraish community, the Prophet’s own tribe. Allah had three daughters : Al Uzzah (Venus), most revered of all and pleased with human sacrifice; Manah, the goddess of destiny; and Al Lat, the goddess of plant world. The three daughters of Allah were considered very powerful over all things. Therefore, their intercession on behalf of the worshiper was of great significance. 

How did the pre-Islamic Arabs live ?

Why did they oppose the prophet ?

In pre-Islamic period, every household among the settled traders or agriculturists had an idol of a god or goddess. There were hundreds of sacred groves, places of pilgrimage, and temples that were sanctuaries containing images of the entire range of diverse gods.

The temples, in addition to being the religious focus of the Arabs, were also cultural centres of learning. It was the venue of literary and poetry competitions, and of glorious festivals that were held from time to time throughout the year.

The virtues most prized by people of Arabia were bravery in battle, patience in misfortune, loyalty to one’s tribe, and generosity to the needy and the poor. They proudly upheld the value of tolerance in matters of religious practice and belief. The respect they showed towards other people’s religions were fully in keeping with their evolved tradition.

The status of women was that of pride and equal respect. How could it be otherwise with a people whose deities were goddesses ! Women married men of their choice and were financially independent. They were entrepeneurs, artisans, poets and even warriors. The woman Muhammad married later in life, Khadija, was not only a wealthy merchant but also in a position to choose her own husband.

Curiously, and very pertinently, Hind bint ‘Utbah was the wife of Muhammad’s early chief enemy, Abu Sufyan, who was then the Chief of Mecca. It must again be mentioned in passing that the name – Hind – has its obvious origin in the Indian subcontinent.

The proud spouse participated in the battlefield when Muhammad thrust a war upon her people. And when Abu Sufyan, her husband, surrendered Mecca to Muhammad without a fight, she caught hold of him in the marketplace and cried, “Kill this fat greasy bladder of lard ! What a rotten protector of the people !“

While baptising Hind into his new faith, Muhammad asks her not to commit adultery. And she, claiming her heritage and established practice that then prevailed, defiantly reminded him : ” A free woman does not commit adultery !“

Tradition admits that ” Muhammed’s grandfather and uncles were hereditary priests of the Ka’aba temple, which housed 360 idols.” There are elements in current Islamic practice, of circumambulation around the Ka’aba and of veneration for Sangey Aswad or the Black Stone embedded in the south-east wall of Ka’aba, which connect its pre-Islamic past with Hindu custom.

* * *

Overall, Islam is unviable and incompatible with the rest of mankind, and there is an immediate need in all non-Islamic societies to remove the Islamic belief system out of their values perspective, in order to still be open to the other religions and diverse faiths.  With its divisive and barbaric commands for believers against all disbelievers, the Muslim’s violent prosecution of Jews, Zoroastrians, Shias, Hindus, Christians, Sikhs, Bahai, Ahmadis… has continued right upto modern times.

3 thoughts on “Islam – Prehistory, Myths & Present (IV)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s