The Rise of Muslims #

Muhammad (born c. 570, Mecca, Arabia died, 632, Medina) founder of Islam and the proclaimer of the Qurʾān.

The religion quickly caught on in Arab lands and in the 1070s the Turks from the Steppe, swept away many Arab Muslim dynasties. The Turks seized control, setting up regional centers of power in formerly Arab cities.

Like Christianity spread rapidly after the fourth century, we need to question why, by the eighth century, Islam controlled most of the east and southern lands of the Mediterranean.

Muslims and Christians purport to be based on the peace teachings of Jesus Christ and Mohammed, while Hindus and Buddhists, espouse non-violence, but much of history belies that.

First Christians were brutally persecuted by the Jews, then fed to the lions for Roman entertainment. They eventually became an accepted religion when Constantine found their religion useful to improve his image and soon began to persecute others.

Christ advocated “do unto others as you would have them do to you”, became instead “do as they did to you”. Victims become perpetrators.

Both Christian and Islamic militancy must question, ‘Is it reasonable, or does God will, to spread one’s religion by violence?’ Can Christian Crusades or holy wars or Muslim “suicide bombings,” and — jihad — ever be justified or condoned?

The friction between the Sunnis and Shias never instigated the bloody violence aroused by the Religious Wars between Catholics and Protestants from 1535 to the late 18th century in the Western Christian world.

European scholars of religions allowed the Arabists to fall far behind the Hellenists and Latinists. Muslim scholars took little notice of Western civilisations.

Jews, Christians and Muslims purport to worship the same God. Whose side is God on?

Modern Culture wars attempt to assert the supremacy of each civilisation.

Shia – Sunni - Sufi #

The argument between the two groups dates back to the death in 632 of Islam’s founder, the Prophet Muhammad. Tribal Arabs who followed him were split over who should inherit what was both a political and a religious office. The majority, who would go on to become known as the Sunnis, and today make up 80% of Muslims, backed Abu Bakr, a friend of the Prophet and father of his wife Aisha. Others thought Muhammad’s kin the rightful successors. They claimed the Prophet had anointed Ali, his cousin and son-in-law—they became known as the Shia,

Muslims and the Law #

Islam has a long history of pluralism. The earliest community of Muslims led by Prophet Muhammad in 7th-century Medina included Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims.

The Medinan Constitution, presided over by Muhammad, accorded rights to all Medinans from all faiths. In his last sermon, Muhammad reminded his congregation of the imperative to accord respect and dignity to all human beings – irrespective of their colour and gender. As with other faiths, there are various denominations in Islam. This plurality has been buttressed by the numerous schools of Islamic jurisprudence.

Just like modern Christianity, what is preached is seldom practised.

Muslim Women #

Women like Ummal-Darda, a seventh-century jurist and scholar who taught jurisprudence in the mosques of Damascus and Jerusalem.

Her students were men, women, and even the caliph. Another woman in Akram’s research discoveries: the fourteenth- century Syrian scholar Fatimah al- Bataihiyyah, who taught both men and women in the Prophet’s mosque in Medina, drawing students from as far away as Fez.

“I know of no other religion in which women were so central in its formative history” Sheikh Mohammad Akram Nadwi, Islamic scholar

SAKINA AMANIJUN, A devout Muslim, claims the Taliban treatment of Afghan women defies the Qur’an. The fundamentalist group have stripped Afghan women of freedom under its interpretation of sharia law, which contradicts Islamic teachings.

The 2021 re-imposition of sharia law, derived from Islam, has sparked outrage and concern among international human rights communities as the Taliban has systemically stripped away women’s rights and freedoms.

After taking power, the Taliban’s first move was to change the Ministry of Women Affairs to the Ministry of Vice and Virtue, which became an unquestionable symbol of the disappearance of women’s rights. Afghan women have been barred from education, denied the opportunity to work, subjected to oppressive dress codes, excluded from participating in politics and decision-making processes, and have had their access to healthcare restricted. They face harsh punishments for violating any of these strictures.

Sunni Muslims vehemently oppose the Taliban’s treatment of women and girls in Afghanistan, arguing the group’s interpretation of sharia law does not align with any schools of thought. It also disregards prominent Muslim women of Islam’s history, such as Bibi Khadija, the wife of Prophet Mohammad, who played significant roles as a businesswoman.

And throughout Islamic history, countless examples showcase the active participation of Muslim women alongside mens. One of the first known universities in the world, the University of al-Qarawiyyin in the Moroccan city of Fez, was founded more than 1000 years ago by Fatima al-Fihri, a Muslim woman. It is the oldest existing and continually operating educational institution in the world.

Sakina Amani, a freelance journalist based in Melbourne was published by Crikey on June, 20, 2023.

Coercive Religion #

Most religions have spread their influence by military force. The people of Israel reclaimed their lands and later protected them by militant means.

Constantine Christianised the Roman Empire by the sword.

Most crusades and later wars were perpetrated with licenced killing, looting and the rape and slavery of women. Pope Innocent III set the terms promised in the Crusades against Islam – remission of sins and unrestricted looting which implied rape.

Pope Urban II. in 1194, responding to Alexis of Constantinople cries for help against expanding Islam who becomes the main culprit.

In a rousing speech, instilling imaginative power, Urban called for violence against the infidel in the name of Christ, for the one true religion, amidst prayers for peace . Through this act of piety Urban raised an army of 40,000 crusaders to destroy all enemies of Christ.

His first, most infamous atrocity was to go north to the Rhineland to destroy the Jews. Only then did they proceed to retake Jerusalem in 1099, in one of the most violent and bloody raids in history, involving mass rapes of women and murders of children and destruction of many towns. Decrees went out excluding Muslims from living in Christian lands.

Muslim temples were transformed back into Cathedrals.

In contrast, when Saladin reclaims Jerusalem in 1187, he proclaims a a policy of co-existence; The Holy Sepulchral of Jerusalem must remain open to all religions.

The Catholic Monarchs of Spain invoked the Moor Slayer to reclaim their territory. All European imperialists used their superior military force to impose their power over colonies with armed missionaries.

Noted political philosopher Fr. James Schall, SJ, summarized the tumult: He addressed an issue that did, to be sure, come to world attention because of Islamic militancy. This issue was stated succinctly:

‘Is it reasonable, or does God will, to spread one’s religion by violence?’

This was a question asked by practically everyone in the world who thought of the implications of “suicide bombings,” or about the earlier holy wars — jihad — in Islamic history, wars largely, though not exclusively, against Christian lands.

The issue is the deliberate choice of violent means as the proper way to propagate a religion, together with a theological justification to do so.” Ed Husain in The House of Islam: A Global History

Despite the Koran’s admonition:

“God made us all diverse peoples so that you can know one another and live in harmony”,

the Muslim world eventually appears to have become more and more intolerant, perhaps learning from the Crusades and envy of Western progressiveness.

Sharia Law #

Islamic law or Sharia law is a religious law forming part of the Islamic tradition. It is derived from the religious precepts of Islam, particularly the Quran and the Hadith.

Sharia law is cast from the words of Muhammad, called “hadith,” his actions, called “sunnah,” and the Quran, which he dictated. The Sharia law itself cannot be altered but its interpretation, called “fiqh,” by muftis (Islamic jurists) is given some latitude.

As a legal system, the Sharia law is exceptionally broad. While other legal codes regulate public behavior, Sharia regulates public behavior, private behavior, and even private beliefs. Compared to other legal codes, the Sharia law also prioritizes punishment over rehabilitation and favors corporal and capital punishments over incarceration. Of all legal systems in the world today, the Sharia law is the most intrusive and restrictive, especially against women. According to the Sharia law.

• Theft is punishable by amputation of the hands (Quran 5:38).

• Criticizing or denying any part of the Quran is punishable by death.

• Criticizing Muhammad or denying that he is a prophet is punishable by death.

• Criticizing or denying Allah is punishable by death (see Allah moon god).

A Muslim who becomes a non-Muslim is punishable by death (See Compulsion).

• A non-Muslim who leads a Muslim away from Islam is punishable by death.

• A non-Muslim man who marries a Muslim woman is punishable by death.

• A woman or girl who has been raped cannot testify in court against her rapist(s).

• Testimonies of 4 male witnesses are required to prove rape of a female (Quran 24:13).

• A woman or girl who alleges rape without producing 4 male witnesses is guilty of adultery.

• A woman or girl found guilty of adultery is punishable by death (see “Islamophobia”).

• A male convicted of rape can have his conviction dismissed by marrying his victim.

• Muslim men have sexual rights to any woman/girl not wearing the Hijab (see Taharrush).

• A woman can have 1 husband, who can have up to 4 wives; Muhammad can have more.

• A man can marry an infant girl and consummate the marriage when she is 9 years old.

• Girls’ clitoris should be cut (Muhammad’s words, Book 41, Kitab Al-Adab, Hadith 5251).

• A man can beat his wife for insubordination (see Quran 4:34 and Religion of Peace).

• A man can unilaterally divorce his wife; a wife needs her husband’s consent to divorce.

• A divorced wife loses custody of all children over 6 years of age or when they exceed it.

• A woman’s testimony in court, allowed in property cases, carries ½ the weight of a man’s.

• A female heir inherits half of what a male heir inherits (see Mathematics in Quran).

• A woman cannot speak alone to a man who is not her husband or relative.

• Meat to eat must come from animals that have been sacrificed to Allah - i.e., be “Halal.”

• Muslims should engage in Taqiyya and lie to non-Muslims to advance Islam.

Muslims - Contributions to Western Civilisation #

Where might we be if the Islamic world that once illuminated Cordoba had not expended centuries of intellectual energy to help rescue, preserve and enhance the foundation of modern thought?

The ancient Greeks developed the basis of knowledge: philosophy, mathematics, medicine, astronomy, science, architecture, literature and politics. Rome took the most important ideas and made them its own.

When the Western Roman Empire fell to Huns, Goths, Vandals, Vikings, Bulgars and Franks, it was the Moors from the who preserved and flourished during the early Middle Ages, which spanned the period from AD 500 to 1000.

This astrolabe was created for Jaafar, son of the Abbasid caliph al-Muktafi, in Baghdad in the 10th century AD.

The teachings of Plato, Socrates, Aristotle and the other great thinkers and scientists of Greece fell into obscurity west of Constantinople.

In Baghdad, there rose a remarkable institution known as the House of Wisdom.

With Europe into its so-called Dark Ages, the Islamic world was entering its Golden Age.

The House of Wisdom, between the 8th and 13th centuries, attracted Muslim, Christian and Jewish scholars from throughout the known world to study and translate the tracts that had underpinned modern thought to that time into Arabic.

Every important and available book and paper known to exist was collected for translation from Greek, Latin, Persian, Indian and even Chinese sources.

By the 9th century, the House of Wisdom contained the world’s largest library, and up to 500 scholars worked feverishly on their own discoveries.

The idea that the Earth was round, its circumference measurable, was no stranger here. Physicians investigated the causes of infection. The number zero, invented as a useful concept in India, reached Baghdad somewhere around AD 770 and became a crucial element in mathematics. Without zero there would never have been a computer, let alone Google.

The pleasure of harnessing knowledge spread rapidly across Arab North Africa, through refined cities like Fez, and beyond.

Meanwhile, in AD 711, those Muslims known in the West as Moors began pouring across the Strait of Gibraltar and took over the Iberian Peninsula. By AD 1000, most of what we now know as Spain was occupied by the Islamic Caliphate of Cordoba.

Eventually the Spaniards conquered Cordoba and plonked a cathedral in the heart of its main mosque.

With the city of Cordoba at its centre, here rose the most enlightened and cultured area of Europe.

Cordoba, with its magnificent Mezquita (mosque) spreading over 2½ serene hectares, was a world centre of learning. Its main library, one of more than 70 in the city of half a million inhabitants, was said to contain 400,000 books. Christians and Jews were permitted to live in relative peace alongside the Moors, contributing to the cultural vibrancy of Andalusia.

Empires, however, fracture, rot from the inside, collapse and are conquered. By 1150, Islamic Spain was dying, though it wasn’t until 1492 - the year, in a marvellous stroke of symmetry, that saw Christopher Columbus sail from the Andalusian port of Palos on his first voyage of discovery - that the last of the Moors were exiled back to Africa.

Spanish Christians, in conquering Islamic Spain, got vastly more than territory.

The first large Islamic city to fall was Toledo, packed with libraries of those Golden Age works translated into Arabic.

Suddenly in possession of this vast trove of scholarship, almost all of it in Arabic, the Spanish established what became known as the Toledo School of Translators.

The Arabic texts, containing the world’s preserved store of knowledge, were painstakingly translated for Spanish rulers by learned Jews and Christians throughout the 12th and 13th centuries, first into Latin and later into Castilian - the basis of modern Spanish.

And to cut a very long story very short, that’s part of how Plato and his fellow philosophers, and the sciences of mathematics and astronomy and medicine, made their way back to Western Europe, helping fire the glory of the Renaissance … and on and on.

For some 500 years, the Catholics. Muslims and Jews managed to co-exist in Spain. Toledo boasts a joint worship house built by the Moors, financed by the Jews and shared by the Christians as a house of worshiping the same God for all three. The Synagogue of Santa María la Blanca is a museum and former synagogue in Toledo, Spain. Erected in 1180, according to an inscription on a beam, it is disputably considered the oldest synagogue building in Europe still standing. It is now owned and preserved by the Catholic Church.

Its stylistic and cultural classification is unique among surviving buildings as it was constructed under the Christian Kingdom of Castile by Islamic architects for Jewish use. It is considered a symbol of the cooperation that existed among the three cultures that populated the Iberian Peninsula during the Middle Ages.

After the expulsion of the city’s Jews under the Alhambra decree in 1492, the Synagogues were expropriated and became Catholic houses of worship.

Queen Isabella, threatened by the rise of the militant Ottoman Turks, decided to expel all Jews and Muslims who did not fully convert to Christianity. The infamous Spanish Inquisition dealt lethally with any suspected conversos secretly practising their original religion.

Christian scholars translated Islamic scholarship from Arabic back into Latin and Castilian, rediscovering their own civilisation in the process.

It seemed, in the courtyard of the Cordoba Mosque - in the centre of which the triumphant Spanish rudely plonked a cathedral - to have been a lot of effort, only to lead eventually to modern barbarians like Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin doing their best to corrupt knowledge just as we enter the age of the most powerful library ever known, the internet.

Still, here’s the damnedest and most hopeful thought that came to mind: places like Cordoba remind us that empires rot and die, but the thirst for knowledge evolves and never ends.

A thousand years later, would we have the tools to even imagine a Google?