Angilbert (fl. ca. 840/50), On the Battle Which was Fought at Fontenoy

The Law of Christians is broken,
Blood by the hands of hell profusely shed like rain,
And the throat of Cerberus bellows songs of joy.

Angelbertus, Versus de Bella que fuit acta Fontaneto

Fracta est lex christianorum
Sanguinis proluvio, unde manus inferorum,
gaudet gula Cerberi.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Muhammad and the Natural Law: Allah's Murderers and Thieves

MUHAMMAD'S CLAIM TO BE A PROPHET, that is a messenger, a spokesman for God, the creator of heaven and earth and the source of all good, is belied by his inability to climb out of the conventions of the culture in which he found himself. As we have seen, Muhammad participated in the polygamy, concubinage, brigandage, and inter-tribal warfare so prevalent at the time. The Muslims are blind to the behavior because of their presuppositions about Muhammad. Despite his objectively vicious behavior, however, many Western moral relativists have come to Muhammad's defense.* The typical refrain is something like Montgomery Watt's conclusion that "[i]n both Meccan and Medinan periods Muhammad's contemporaries looked on him as a good and upright man, and in the eyes of history he is a moral and social reformer."** But this judgment is "considered only in relation to the moral standards of his time," (and place), but as Watt himself however concedes, "there is also another way of judging him, namely, by a universal standard." It is a judgment from which he excuses himself. Watt also acknowledges the Muslim belief that Muhammad is the perfect man, al-insan al-kamil, the hasua hasana, the epitome or paradigm for all men to follow, a perfect incarnation, as it were, of universal morality. They have put Muhammad on a pedestal, and then they prohibit any criticism of him. And yet by putting him on a pedestal as a perfect man, they invite criticism.

Now Muslims claim that Muhammad is a model of conduct and character for all mankind. In so doing they invite world opinion to pass judgment upon him."*

If we are to judge Muhammad (and the moral teachings in his Qur'an and in the Sunnah and in his life as found in the Sirat), then we are going to need a standard other than Muhammad with which to judge him. Muslims are unable to do this, as their circular reasoning goes something like this: Muhammad is a self-acclaimed prophet. Muhammad is a self-acclaimed perfect man. No one judges Muhammad. He is the universal law. Case closed. The natural law is thus ostracized by Islam and unavailable to them to judge Muhammad.

Some of it is a vicious defense mechanism. The moment that the natural moral law, which is the law of God in the nature of man, is invoked and Muhammad contrasted to it, Muhammad fails miserably. We have seen in prior postings how Muhammad's life with respect to polygamy, concubinage, the assassination of political and religious rivals, his torture of enemies, and genocide of rival tribes falls short of what the natural moral law would require. This failure, of course, does not mean that Muhammad was not relatively good based upon the brutal conventions of his day and time. (This is disputable: for example, the Meccans with political power who were against him treated him much more civilly than he treated the Meccans once he got power over his adversaries.) But a man who abides by the primitive and brutal conventions of his time when the conventions contradict universal moral law is not a prophet with an insight to God's universal law.

In this posting we will focus on another area of Muhammad which is inconsistent with natural law, specifically, his role in encouraging and leading raids against the caravans of the Meccans after he assumed political power in the neighboring town of Yathrib (later named Medina).

It seems clear that, in fleeing Mecca to Medina, Muhammad intended to raid the caravans of his former townsmen as a means for sustaining his Muslim band. These raids are, from a moral point of view, nothing less than acts of brigandage. This aspect of Muhammad's life was so important that as Watt notes: "[t]he first attempts to collect biographical material about Muhammad were called al-maghazi [المغازي‎], that is, the 'expeditions' or 'campaigns'." Watt, 2. The early biographer of Muhammad al-Waqidi identified seventy-four such campaigns.

It is without question that these campaigns were aggressive and were a central feature of the Islam and the subject of "revelations" of the Qur'an. As is typical with Muhammad's "revelations," they seem to be rather opportune and convenient, and always seems to accord with the temporal or even sensual needs of Muhammad. As Muhammad's wife 'Aisha put it in one instance: "'O Allah's Apostle! I do not see, but, that your Lord hurries in pleasing you.'" Sahih Bukhari, 07.62.48. Sure enough, when justification was required for fighting and raiding to begin, Allah hurried to please Muhammad with a convenient "revelation" and an even more questionable "justification." It certainly gives the impression that Muhammad is both self-revealing and self-justifying:
Permission to fight is given to those (i.e. believers against disbelievers), who are fighting them, (and) because they (believers) have been wronged, and surely, Allāh is Able to give them (believers) victory.

أُذِنَ لِلَّذِينَ يُقَاتَلُونَ بِأَنَّهُمْ ظُلِمُوا وَإِنَّ اللَّهَ عَلَى نَصْرِهِمْ لَقَدِير
Qur'an (Al-Haj) 22:39. The gracious permission to engage in brigandage was, after the the Battle of Badr, strengthened to an affirmative duty to engage in brigandage, rapine, and rape:
And fight in the Way of Allāh and know that Allāh is All-Hearer, All-Knower.

وَقَاتِلُوا فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَاعْلَمُوا أَنَّ اللَّهَ سَمِيعٌ عَلِيم
Qur'an (Al-Baqarah), 2:244.

Soon, it was not only an occasional duty, but something that was positively delightful to this war-like God called Allah. Allah wants all his Muslims out of their homes and onto the highways and byways of the Hijaz, the Arabian peninsula, on from there all around the world to wage war on every human being on earth that is not under Islam's hegemony:
Not equal are those of the believers who sit (at home), except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame, etc.), and those who strive hard and fight in the Cause of Allāh with their wealth and their lives. Allāh has preferred in grades those who strive hard and fight with their wealth and their lives above those who sit (at home). Unto each, Allāh has promised good (Paradise), but Allāh has preferred those who strive hard and fight, above those who sit (at home) by a huge reward

لاَ يَسْتَوِي الْقَاعِدُونَ مِنَ الْمُؤْمِنِينَ غَيْرُ أُوْلِي الضَّرَرِ وَالْمُجَاهِدُونَ فِي سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ فَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ بِأَمْوَالِهِمْ وَأَنفُسِهِمْ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ دَرَجَة ً وَكُلاّ ً وَعَدَ اللَّهُ الْحُسْنَى وَفَضَّلَ اللَّهُ الْمُجَاهِدِينَ عَلَى الْقَاعِدِينَ أَجْراً عَظِيما
Qur'an (An-Nisa), 4:95.

While the first few raids were hesitant and unsuccessful, this was largely as a result of the lack of adequate opportunity, or simple caution. "The chief point to notice," Watt says, "is that the Muslims took the offensive." Watt, 2.

The first such successful raid was the seventh, which took place at Nakhla (نخلة) and was headed by Abdullah ibn Jahsh. It occurred at the express direction of Muhammad, who informed Abdullah of his goal by through the instructions in a letter which Abdullah was not to open until two days after he had left Medina. Although Muhammad probably intended the raid to occur if the Abdullah thought it opportune, he probably did not expect it to occur when it did, since the raiding party got to Nakhla and found a caravan there on the "last day of [the sacred month of] Rajab," when fighting was prohibited by well-established custom. By not informing the raiding party of its destination until it was well out of town, no one at Medina would be able to tell anyone at Mecca what the raiding party was up to.

The fruits of the Muhammadan morality of Nakhla
Christians from the town of Byie, Nigeria
slaughtered by Muslim raiders, March 17, 2010

When the raiding party got to Nakhla, it discovered a caravan manned by the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, "carrying dry raisins and leather and other merchandise of the Quraysh." That the goods belonged to other men did not bother the Muslims one bit. Though the Muslims are brutal when it comes to stealing among themselves,Qur'an 5:38, apparently the commandments "Thou shalt not steal" and "Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors goods" did not apply to Muslims when it pertained to the non-believers, the kuffar (كفّار). There is one morality within Islam, another outside of it. One way for the dar-al-Islam, another for the dar-al-Harb. Love your friends, hate your enemies. It is an abhorrent dualism.

The Muslims used tricks to overcome the defenses of the caravan. One of Abdullah's men, Ukkash ibn Mihsan, shaved his head so as to give the appearance that he was a religious devotee on pilgrimage. Moreover, it was the month of Rajab where, by convention or custom, hostilities between tribes were forbidden. The caravan therefore put its guard down, thinking the raiding party to be just a bunch of pious devotees of the local idol-goddess al-'Uzza (العزى‎).

While the Meccans were setting up camp and preparing food, the Muslims engaged in a surprise attack. The leader of the Meccan caravan, Amr ibn Hadrami, was killed. One of the Meccans escaped, and the remaining two and all the booty was taken back to Medina.

When they returned, Muhammad was upset about the violation of the customary ban on fighting. "I did not order you to fight in the sacred month," he said to Abdullah. But another convenient revelation from Allah set everyone's mind at rest. Customs, conventions (like secular laws) do not really bind the Muslim:
They ask you concerning fighting in the Sacred Months (i.e. 1st, 7th, 11th and 12th months of the Islāmic calendar). Say, "Fighting therein is a great (transgression) but a greater (transgression) with Allāh is to prevent mankind from following the Way of Allāh, to disbelieve in Him, to prevent access to Al-Masjid-al-Harām (at Makkah), and to drive out its inhabitants, and Al-Fitnah is worse than killing.

يَسْأَلُونَكَ عَنِ الشَّهْرِ الْحَرَامِ قِتَال ٍ فِيه ِِ قُلْ قِتَال ٌ فِيه ِِ كَبِير ٌ وَصَدٌّ عَنْ سَبِيلِ اللَّهِ وَكُفْر ٌ بِه ِِ وَالْمَسْجِدِ الْحَرَامِ وَإِخْرَاجُ أَهْلِه ِِ مِنْهُ أَكْبَرُ عِنْدَ اللَّهِ وَالْفِتْنَةُ أَكْبَرُ مِنَ الْقَتْلِ
Qur'an (Al-Baqarah) 2:217. The reasoning goes like this: "They [the Meccans] used to seduce the Muslim in his religion until they made him return to unbelief after believing, and that is worse than killing." So all Meccans can be killed, and if they can be killed, certainly the lesser can be done to them: their goods taken. This is the moral logic, the non-sequiturs of the Qur'an, and the thieving and murdering Allah behind it.
You count war in the holy month a grave matter,
But graver is, if one judges rightly,
Your opposition to Muhammad's teaching, and your
Unbelief in it, which God sees and witnesses,
Your driving God's people from His mosque
So that none can be seen worshipping Him there.
Though you defame us for killing him,
More dangerous to Islam is the sinner who envies.
Our lances drank of Ibn al-Hadrami's blood
In Nakhla when Waqid lit the flame of war,
'Uthman ibn Abdullah is with us,
A leather band streaming with blood restrains him.***

Not only was the booty kept, but the two prisoners were exchanged for ransom, a total of 1,600 dirhams. No blood money was paid for the man killed.

It was the Nakhla raid where Islam drew its first blood, claimed its first casualty, and stole its first gold, all three crimes against the natural moral law. If Muhammad's behavior cannot be criticized, then we are forced to conclude that assaulting men, killing them, stealing their goods is justified against anyone who opposes Muhammad or disbelieves his teaching, which is to say, the entire non-Muslim world. No natural law restrains the Muslim in this logic, only the "leather band" of convenience, a "leather band streaming with blood" restrains the Muslim from his sanguinary ethic. The Muslim terrorist simply unleashes himself from that leather band, and incurs no moral fault thereby. This is the teaching of Muhammad and the logic of his morals, manifestly against the customs and laws of men, the natural moral law, and the law of the God most high Himself. And since, under shari'a to criticize or insult Muhammad is punishable by death, the natural moral law--the law of conscience and of God--is squelched and Muhammad is freed of obedience to it or comparison with it.

If the natural moral law, the law of reason, the law of human nature, the law of God ever makes it into the Islamic lands, then we will have cause to say with with Isaiah, a real honest-to-goodness prophet:
الشعب السالك في الظلمة ابصر نورا عظيما. الجالسون في ارض ظلال الموت اشرق عليهم نور

Populus qui ambulabat in tenebris vidit lucem magnam. Habitantibus in regione umbrae mortis lux orta est eis.

The people that walked in darkness, have seen a great light: to them that dwelt in the region of the shadow of death, light is risen.
Isaiah 9:2.

Oremus. Our brothers in thrall to the teachings of Muhammad need our prayers, for God wants more for them than what Muhammad gave them.

*Some have written unbelievably stupid things about Muhammad. An example which might be cited is Karen Armstrong's tendentious biography on Muhammad. She writes: "Muhammad eventually abjured violence and pursued a daring, inspired policy of non-violence that was worthy of Ghandi." Muhammad: A Biography of the Prophet (New York: Harper Collins 1992), 5. That has to be one of the falsest things ever written about Muhammad. The intellectual dishonesty in that statement is shocking. From the beginning of his assumption of power at Medina until his dying breath, Muhammad was engaged in raids, wars, murder, and genocide. Muhammad did not bring peace, but war. Muhammad even amassed a number of swords, swords which have been given names: Dhu al-Faqar, al-'Adb, Qal'i, al-Ma'thur, al-Mikhdham, al-Qadib, Hatf, al-Battar, al-Rasub. See Swords of the Prophet Muhammad.
**W. Montgomery Watt,
Muhammad at Medina (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1956), 332-33. Watt of course completely ignores the testimony of all Muhammad's opponents, who thought him an evil man to be fought against, a false prophet, a charlatan, and so forth. It also forgets that Muhammad was brutal in his treatment of opponents, so it impossible to expect grievances against him would be aired, and even if aired, preserved in written form, since most people with their heads cut off fail to preserve things in writing. Moreover, the historians that preserved what we have from early Islam were clearly writing to justify and glorify their political/religious founder, and did not write what, by today's standards we would characterize as objective history. History is written by the victors, Churchill warned, and, as an African proverb has it, don't let a lion tell a giraffe's story. Watt's judgment is hardly critical.
***A. Guillaume,
The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah (Karachi: Oxford University Press, 2006, 286-89.

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