The Prophet Mohammed, a
In order to fully appreciate the events
of today, it is essential to understand the events surrounding the
founding of Islam and the work of the Prophet. Although Islam was
created with lofty spiritual aims, and has grown to be the inspiration
of millions of worshippers worldwide, one must remember it was
originally formed within the context of direct battle against "the
West", in the form of the Roman Empire.
It was also done, as recorded with much detail in the Qur'an, within
the context of the destruction of the largely Jewish kingdom of Arabia.
The Himyarite Kingdom had replaced the previous kingdom of Sabea or
"Sheba" as mentioned in the Bible . It had existed for hundreds
of years and encompassed a great portion of what is today Saudi Arabia
and Yemen. It was made up of refugees from the Roman conquest of
Israel during the 1st and 2nd centuries CE and descendants of converts.
The context of the formation of Islam is important to understand,
because it is makes it possible for its adherents to interpret Islam
today either as "a war against greed, immorality and idolatry; a battle
between good and evil" - or as "a war on Jews and Christians, and a
battle between East and West" - depending on which historical facts you
choose to emphasize. In any event, the concept of a literal,
physical battle exists throughout.
The Prophet Muhammad, one of the most influential religious and
military leaders in history, was born in Mecca around 570 CE. His
father died before he was born, and Muhammad was put under the care of
his grandfather, head of the prestigious Hashim clan. His mother died
when he was six, and his grandfather when he was eight, leaving him
under the care of his uncle Abu Talib, the new head of the clan. When
he was 25, Muhammad married a wealthy widow 15 years his senior. He
lived the next 15 years as a merchant, and came into contact with many
Jewish merchants and landowners. The Prophet and his wife gave birth to
six children: two sons, who died in childhood, and four daughters.
From time to time, Muhammad spent time in a cave in Mount Hira north of
Mecca. Around 610 CE, he had a vision in which he heard the voice of a
majestic being, later identified as the angel Gabriel, say to him, "You
are the Messenger of God." Thus began a lifetime of religious
revelations, which he and others collected as the Qur'an, or Koran.
Muhammad regarded himself as the last prophet of the Judaic-Christian
tradition. He adopted aspects of these older religions'
theologies while introducing new doctrines, although the Judaism and
Christianity he knew differed from the religions we know today.
The Jewish Kingdom of Arabia was caught in the middle between Rome and
Persia during their frequent wars. The leadership of Himyar
traditionally sided with Persia, yet Rome also tried to court the
Jewish Kingdom. In 438 CE, the Roman Empress Eudocia
removed the ban on Jews' praying at the Temple site, and the heads of
the Jewish Community in Galilee issued a call "to the great and mighty
people of the Jews" which began: "Know that the end of the exile of our
people has come!" The Roman Emperor Julian, as part of his apostasy and
an attempt to sway the Jewish Kingdom of Arabia away from Persia, in
464 CE announced his intention of rebuilding the
Temple. All this enflamed Jewish nationalism, but the courting
was short lived, and was followed by religious backlash and persecution.
Rome began to get the upper hand against Persia, partly due to sense of
unity engendered by Christianity being declared and enforced as the
official religion. Persia followed Rome's example, and the
Mazdakites tried to create a universal faith for the Persian
empire. Jews were no longer safe in either the Roman or Persian
empires. Denied the opportunity for self defense, the Jewish
Exilarch Mar Zutra declared a Jewish State in Babylon (Iraq). The
Himyarite Kingdom in Arabia, under the Rabbinite King Dhu Nuwas, also
tried to create
a Jewish Kingdom from the Euphrates to the Red Sea. These short
lived revolts were crushed. The persecutions increased and dreams
of Jewish restoration began to take on a Messianic fervor.
When usurper Phocas murdered Roman Emperor Maurice in 608 CE, Rome was
in disarray. Egypt under Heraclius revolted against
Rome. Persia saw this as an opportunity to conquer Egypt.
To assist in their dreams of conquest the Persians made an alliance
with the Jews. In 614 CE, Jewish Exilarch Nehemiah ben
Hushiel was made governor of Jerusalem. Within months he was
killed by a mob and Christians revolted against Persian rule.
Jews and Persians fought side by side and for nineteen days sacked the
city. Not intending for it to go this far, the Persian King
Khosrau ordered the Jews to leave the city, and appointed a Christian
governor to appease the Romans. The Persians succeeded to conquer
Egypt, but the war
began to turn against them.
Abandoned by the Persians, in 619
CE, up to 20,000 unprotected Jewish troops were slaughtered outside the
Golden Gate. In Arabia this was called the "year of
sorrow". Shortly after this the Prophet traveled to Taif to call
on the people there to hear his message. After being rejected he
received a vision of Jewish Jinn (spirits), perhaps referring to the
souls of the slaughtered Jewish troops, who eagerly accepted his
message. In 622 CE, the Prophet was invited to Yathrib by
Jews. The Prophet's arrival was announced from the rooftops by a
With the death of Nehemiah ben Hushiel, the Judaic nation tried to
grapple with the meaning of these events in terms of their literary
heritage. According to Jewish tradition, the Messiah of Joseph
would die. So Nehemiah must have been the Messiah of
Joseph. This meant that the King Messiah was sure to
follow. However, before the King Messiah would appear, he would
be preceded by Elijah the Prophet. Their leaders said "A Prophet is
about to arise; his time draws near. We shall follow him; and then we
shall slay [our enemies] with [divine] slaughter…" As
the common people became aware of the Prophet, "they spoke one to
another – surely know that is the same Prophet whom the Jews warn us
Modern research1 has indicated that
Muhammad initially took on himself many aspects of Rabbinic Judaism,
like Dhu Nuwas before him. It is known that Muhammad required
that his followers keep kosher and the fast of Yom Kippur, circumcise
and pray facing Jerusalem. Muhammad's militant monotheistic
religion was called Islam, meaning "surrender [to God]," and its
followers were Muslims, meaning "those who have surrendered." His
inspired teachings would bring unity to the Arabian peninsula, an event
that had sweeping consequences for the rest of the world. In the Qur'an it is recorded that the
native Jewish Priests rejected his claim, and Muhammad in turn
renounced them for deserting him. Later many Jewish laws were
changed, Muhammad requested that his followers pray towards Mecca, and
a new religion was created.
At Medina, Muhammad overthrew the ruling Jewish elite, confiscated
Jewish land, built a theocratic state, and led raids on trading
caravans from Mecca. Attempts by Meccan armies to defeat the Muslim
forces failed. The local Jewish Priests sided with the enemy and
Arab hostility against the Jews began to show itself. The Jewish
Priestly tribes of Bani Nadhir
and Qainuqa' were expelled. At the instigation of an increasing
number of Christian converts to Islam, an Islamic army exterminated the
Jewish community of Quraiza. As a result of the Prophet
Muhammad's resentment, the Qur'an itself contains many of hostile
denunciations of Jews and bitter attacks upon the Jewish tradition,
which undoubtedly have colored the beliefs of religious Muslims down to
Muhammad later become more conciliatory to Mecca, and in 629 he was
allowed to lead a pilgrimage there in exchange for a peace treaty.
Shortly after, Muhammad denounced the treaty. In January 630, he
returned to his birthplace with 10,000 men, and the Meccans were forced
to swear allegiance to its Muslim conquerors and accept the new
religion. He was now the strongest man in Arabia. During the next few
years, most of the peninsula's disparate Arab tribes were conquered,
and came to him to ask for alliance and to convert to his religion. By
his death, on June 8, 632, Muhammad was the effectively ruler of most
of Arabia, and his rapidly growing empire was poised for expansion into
Christian Syria and Persia (Iraq & Iran).
Omar, the caliph who succeeded Muhammad, was said to have delineated in
his Charter of Omar the twelve laws under which a dhimmi, or
non-Muslim, was allowed to exist as a "nonbeliever" among "believers."
The Charter codified the conditions of life for Jews under Islam -- a
life which was forfeited if the dhimmi broke this law. Among the
restrictions of the Charter: Jews were forbidden to touch the Qur'an;
forced to wear a distinctive (sometimes dark blue or black) habit with
sash; compelled to wear a yellow piece of cloth as a badge (blue for
Christians); not allowed to perform their religious practices in
public; not allowed to own a horse, because horses were deemed
noble; not permitted to drink wine in public; and required to bury
their dead without letting their grief be heard by the Muslims.
Within 20 years, the exhausted Roman (Byzantine) and Persian empires
had fallen to the prophet's successors, and during the next two
centuries vast Arab conquests and forced conversions continued. The
Islamic empire grew into one of the largest the world has ever seen,
stretching from India, across the Middle East and Africa, and up
through Western Europe's Iberian peninsula in what is now Spain.
According to Bernard Lewis, "the extermination of the Jewish Priests of
Quraiza was followed by an attack on the Jewish oasis of Khaibar."
Messengers of Muhammad were sent to the Jews who had escaped to the
safety and comfort of Khaibar, "inviting" Usayr (Asher), the Jewish
"war chief," to visit Medina to negotiate a peace treaty. Usayr
set off with thirty companions and a Muslim escort. Suspecting no foul
play, the Priests went unarmed. On the way, the Muslims turned upon the
defenseless delegation, killing all but one who managed to escape; "War
is deception," according to an oft-quoted saying of the Prophet.
The late historian Itzhak Ben-Zvi, said "... the extermination of the
two Arabian-Jewish tribes by the mass massacre of their men, women
and children, was a tragedy for which no parallel can be found in
Jewish history until our own day [century]...." The slaughter of
Arabian Jews and the expropriation of their property became Allah's
will. This became framed as policy in the the Qur'an, "...
some you slew and others you took captive. He [Allah] made you masters
of their [the Jews'] land, their houses and their goods, and of yet
another land [Khaibar] on which you had never set foot before. Truly,
Allah has power over all things." Surah 33, v. 26-32, Dawood
Guillaume reports that the anti-Jewish attack at Khaibar was fiercely
fought off, but "though the inhabitants fought more bravely here than
elsewhere, outnumbered and caught off their guard, they were defeated."
Those who somehow survived constituted the formula for Islam's future
successes. Some of the Jews, "non-Muslims" or infidels, "retained their
land," at least until Muslims could be recruited in sufficient numbers
to replace the Jews. Meanwhile, the Arabian Jews paid a fifty-percent
"tribute," or tax, for the "protection" of the new plunderers. As
Bernard Lewis writes, "The Muslim victory in Khaibar marked the first
contact between the Muslim state and a conquered non-Muslim people and
formed the basis for later dealings of the same type."
The spread of Islam continued after the fragmentation of the Arab
empire, and many societies in Africa and Asia adopted Muhammad's
religion. Today, Islam is the world's second-largest religion.
Joan Peters: From Time Immemorial
Bernard Lewis: The Middle East, a Brief History
Samuel Katz: Battleground
Efraim Karsh: Empires of the Sand, The Struggle for Mastery in the
Ben-Sasson: A History of the Jewish People Haim H.
Norman A. Stillman: Jews of Arab Lands a History and Source Book"
"The History Channnel"
Additional papers by Joseph Katz, Ben Abrahamson and Andrew Phillips
Researches the derivation and correspondence of
the Islamic and Jewish Calendars; explaining how, among other things,
the 9th of Av / Pilgrimage became the 9th of Dhu'al-Hijjah / Hajj;
discusses the strictly
calendar and the use of the crescent symbol as the end result of the
rejection of Hillel II's mathematical calendar.
Prophet Muhammed as a descendant of Onias III.
Explores the possibility that the Prophet was a descendant
of Onias and a Jorhom (Trans-Jordanian)
that his views were inherited from Ptolemy, and that the Ka'aba may be
the "monument on the border of Egypt" mentioned in Isaiah 19 that was
rebuilt along with the Temple at Heliopolis.
Persian conquest of Jerusalem in 614CE compared with Islamic conquest
of 638CE. Its Messianic nature and the role of the Jewish
Exilarch. Explores the conquests of Jerusalem in 614CE and
638CE within the context of previous attempts at Jewish restoration.
Discusses reasons for a Persian-Jewish alliance and later a Judeo-Arab
alliance. An account is given of Babylonian Jewish Exilarch
Nechemiah ben Hushiel, his brother Shallum (Salmaan Farsi) and nephew
Yakov (Kab Al-Ahbar) who played pivotal roles in these conquests.
Proposes that the twelve men who went to Mecca to meet with the Prophet
were Jewish refugees from Edessa, by way of Medina.
of Daniel. An exploration of the Jewish
Prophecies and expectations concerning the Prophet Muhammed as "Ish
Meaning of Jihad. Research into the
roots and context of Jihad as "Y-H Echad" as related to Sanctification
of the Name, or Kiddush Hashem.
Nuwas, a Sadducean King with Sidelocks.
Explores 3rd to 5th century Arabia and the Kingdom of Himyar as an
extension of the Second Commonwealth; also covers his loss of a replica
of the Ark of the Covenant, now buried under a church in Axum, Ethiopia.
Kochba to the Prophet Muhammed. A
historical analysis of the derivation of Islam within the context
of Mecca (home to a Ptolemaic-Sadducean Universal religion) and
Medina (home to the Jewish militancy of what was left of the Great
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