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Aggressive Warfare And Other "dark" Things

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this came from a website forum that I am a member of




Muhammad only attacked when he was attacked or oppressed this is true. After he was attacked, does it not make sense that they should be punished?


He never used violence for evangelism. Even at first Islam was not to be preached to anyone who wasn't Arab.


This is not tradition. You are twisting things around.


The Conquests of Muhammad (saws) I know some things about, enough that they were defensive. The Caliphs I am not sure.


Me, and The Oxford History of Islam from which I will now quote at length. A new day has dawned, and the dark hours of arguing from Wikipedia are over. The library has opened, and from it the truth shall shine out triumphant. (Added emphasis will always be mine.)


During his roughly ten years in Medina (622-32), Muhammad consolidated his control over the town's disparate population, and he extended Medina's power and influence in Arabia...those who challenged Muhammad's claim to prophecy, and in some cases cooperated with his political enemies (or whose leaders did), were handled harshly in a series of confrontations -- exiled with loss of their lands, enslaved, or executed depending on the case. (pp. 9-10)


A couple interesting things to point out from the above. It seems that merely challenging Muhammad's claim to prophecy was sufficient grounds for retaliation (something that we learned about the leader of Mecca from last night's Wikipedia discussion). Only in some cases were Muhammad's "victims" (for lack of a better word) engaged in political intrigue. Sometimes only leaders were engaged in political opposition, for which their followers had to suffer the consequences. Those consequences seem to have included such benevolent punishments as slavery and execution. If one was lucky, he would only be dispossessed of his home and livelihood.


Let's turn now to look at the way scholarship understands the conquest of Mecca:


Mecca and Medina became locked in an intense struggle to win over other towns and groups of nomads, a struggle in which Mecca, with its established commercial and tribal ties, initially appeared to have the advantage. Muhammad, however, launched raids against Meccan caravans, seizing valuable booty and hostages, and, more important distrupting the commercial lifeblood of Mecca.


Now tell me again, how were those caravans oppressing Muhammad when he attacked them, robbed them, and took their owners hostage in a calculated ploy to weaken the Meccans.


Let's read on:


After a series of raids and battles against the Quraysh that seem to have been indecisive in their results...Muhammad negotiated a truce with the Quraysh at Hudaybiya in 628...The treaty also gave Muhammad a free hand to subdue one of Mecca's key allies, the oasis of Khaybar north of Medina, whose large Jewish population (some of them refugees from Medina) was hostile to the Prophet.


And wouldn't you be hostile to the prophet too? After all, if you're a refugee in Khaybar, it means you were one of the lucky few who wasn't enslaved or executed for not becoming a Muslim.


This done, it was relatively easy for Muhammad to turn on Mecca itself, which submitted virtually without bloodshed in 630. Aware of how dangerous the Quraysh could be if their opposition continued, and wishing to win their support, Muhammad was careful to spare their pride. He tied them to his movement by awarding many of their leaders important commands and positions of authority. (p. 10)


It seems what you interpret as a magnanimous act is just as validity understood as a move of political savvy (particularly when you consider the executions already discussed).


But hang on. We're not done yet. The prophet has to subdue the whole Arabian peninsula...through defensive warfare of course.


While Muhammad was engaged in his struggle against Mecca, he was also slowly working to bring more and more nomadic groups and towns within Medina's orbit, either as loose allies or as full-fledged members of the community of Believers. In doing so, he used the appeal of his religious message, promises of material gain, or, on occasion, outright force to bring recalcitrant groups under Medina's sway. His conqest of Mecca opened the way for victorious campaigns -- with the help of the Quraysh -- against the other main town of western Arabia, Taif, and against the remaining groups of powerful nomads in the region. (p. 10)


In their whole brief account of Muhammad's political activity, the nice people at Oxford never mention him undertaking "defensive warfare." Remember now, this isn't some anti-Islamic polemical text. This is a book of serious scholarship with a supposedly objective viewpoint. It was written by John L. Exposito, a professor at Georgetown University, the director of the Center for Muslim-Christian Understanding, and president of the Middle East Studies Association. He doesn't have an anti-Muslim axe to grind.


What they do depict Muhammad as doing is tactfully mixing religious persuasion, economic coercion, military strategy, and well-timed clemency to further his religio-political goals. He was undoubtedly one of the most, if not the most, capable theocrat in all of his history. He was not, so far as we can objectively discern, a peaceful man loath to employ violence except in ways which conform to modern human-rights sensibilities.


As a means of supplement, and to demonstrate that the source above is not anomalous, here are some quotes from The Cambridge History of Islam, volume 1a. This section was written by William Montgomery Watt, whose deep sympathy with Islam is commonly recognized.


Regarding the persecution Muhammad faced while in Mecca:


In addition to the verbal criticisms, there was a certain amount of physical persecution. The extent of this is difficult to determine. Because of the lex talionis and the caln system there was little that even the most powerful man could do against a member of another clan, so long as the latter's clan was ready to protect him. Sharp business practices, of course, were outside the purview of the lex talionis; and the great merchants doubtless brought about the commercial ruin of any merchant who openly supported Muhammad...Muhammad himself, at least until about 619, was protected by his clan, and only met with minor insults, such as having garbage dumped at his door. (. 38)


After 619, Muhammad's clan threatened to withdraw their protection of him, which resulted not so much in his physical persecution but in fear of persecution which forced him to seek protection elsewhere (i.e. Medina). "It is likely, however, that he was still safe so long as he remained in Mecca and kept quite" (41).


Moving on to the Medina period, here is a comment about the motive of Muhammad's raids:


...it seems most unlikely that Muhammad expected his followers to become agriculturalists. He cannot have intended that they should permanently depend on the hospitatlity of the Muslims of Median. Such skill as they had was chiefly in commerce, but, if they organized long-distance caravans to Syria, they were bound to come into conflict with the Meccans. It is hard to resist the conclusion that, perhaps even before the Hijra, Muhammad realized that fighting against he Meccans was inevitable...The assumption that Muhammad deliberately moved towards open hostility with the Meccans explains what became a feature of the Medinan period of his career, viz. the sending out of expeditions. The raid or razzia was a normal occupation of the nomadic Arab male, indeed almost a kind of sport. A common aim was the carrying off of the sheep or camels of rival groups...After some six motnhs in Median, Muhammad began to send out razzias with the special aim of intercepting and capturing Meccan caravans on the way to or from Syria. (p. 50)


Again, I do not see how you can justify these raids with your twofold criteria of defense from attack or oppression.


And finally a note on the continuity which existed between Muhammad's expansionist policy and that of the later caliphs:


Apart from this develoment of the polity, a feature of Muhammad's last years is the reconnaissance and perhaps softening-up of the routes for expansion beyond Arabia. From the numbers reported as taking part in his earlier expeditions along the route to Syria, the high importance he attached to the route may be inferred, though little is said about the results of the expeditions. Along this route from Rajab to Ramadan 9/October to December 630, Muhammad led the greatest of all his expeditions, the expedition of Tabuk, alledgedly comprising 30,000 men and 10,000 horses. This can only properly be understood as a prelimary to the later conquests... (p. 53)


I eagerly await your response.






"It is the wrong question to ask, and therefore, as one might expect, has

no right answer." - Hans von Campenhausen


This is the philosophy of my life.

7:58 am on April 21, 2010 | Joined: Nov. 2002 | Days Active: 1,204

Offline | Tennessee, United States | Straight Male | Posts: 27,116 | Points: 57,828 Report Post





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Thread over.


Quick point about Muhammad's conquest of Mecca - while he did order the execution of a few apostates and others who criticized him (most of whom were forgiven), Muhammad's 'bloodless' conquest of Mecca (there were the deaths of around twenty men who initially fought to defend their city) reminds me of Julius Caesar's conquest of Rome - in which his political enemies (members of his class, etc) were 'graciously' forgiven.


Of course, I would say your explanation for Muhammad's policy of incorporating the Meccans is correct, but do you see a similarity between Muhammad and Caesar in this instance?


After 619, Muhammad's clan threatened to withdraw their protection of him, which resulted not so much in his physical persecution but in fear of persecution which forced him to seek protection elsewhere (i.e. Medina). "It is likely, however, that he was still safe so long as he remained in Mecca and kept quite" (41).


Well, the Muslim response would be that the Meccan rulers had sent men after Muhammad to kill him.


But, if I remember correctly, that was *only* after Muhammad's declaration of war against the people of Mecca, in which he was still a resident of the town.


So, your quote is absolutely correct - if Muhammad did not launch endless polemic against the religion of his own townspeople (remember, this is the seventh century, here) and Muhammad did not declare war against his own people, then he would have been perfectly safe to continue preaching his message of Monotheism. Even if the conversion to Monotheism hurt sales of the powerful business men in Mecca who made a profit selling idols to the largely pagan population of Mecca and Pagan pilgrims traveling to Mecca to worship at the Kaab.


As far as the claims made by 'slave of Allah', one only need to read the biographies on Muhammad by Montgomery Watt (Muhammad at Medina) or Maxime Rodinson to learn that he attacked the pagan tribes to the south to forcefully enter these tribes into an alliance with Medina.


If I search other websites I frequent, I'll be happy to provide the quotes from Rodinson and Watt highlighting Muhammad's aggressive policy against tribes that did not enter an alliance with Muhammad.


For all of the tribes of the Arabian peninsula, converting to Islam or becoming second class citizens where they were required to pay tribute to a centralized government in Medina was an offer they couldn't refuse.

8:45 am on April 21, 2010 | Joined: Aug. 2007 | Days Active: 721

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From Watt's book, Muhammad at Medina, on Muhammad's policy with dealing with tribes too stubborn to quickly enter in an alliance with a far and away city:


(emphasis mine)


Sometimes Muhammad encouraged energetic men to use force against their neighbours. One was Surad b. 'Abdallah of the tribe of Azd Shanu'ah, who came to Muhammad with a dozen or so men; Muhammad put him in charge of these men and of any others of his tribe whom he could persuade to become Muslims, and gave them carte blanche to fight in the name of Islam against any non-Muslims in the region. Surad chose to attack a fortified place called Jurash; after a month's siege he pretended to retire; the besiegers sallied out, hoping to take the withdrawing force at a disadvantage, but instead they found Surad prepared for them and with some loss. Eventually the men of Jurash came to make their peace with Muhammad and to accept Islam. (p. 120)


A more important example of such encouragement was Jarir Abdallah of Jajilah. Coming to Muhammad with 150 men he accepted Islam. Then at Muhammad's suggestion, he attacked the town of Tabalah and destroyed the idol Dhu Khalasah. . .there was some fierce fighting, and much bloodshed, especially among Khath'am and not long afterwards the heads of Khath'am came to offer their submission to Muhammad. (p. 120)

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