Iran Politics Club      
             
   
Website For Thinking Iranians
 
Back to index   23 Years: Muhammad’s Prophetic Career
Chapter V: After Muhammad
 

23 Years: A Study of Muhammad’s Prophetic Career
Chapter V: After Muhammad

Professor Ali Dashti
1st Edition: December 12, 2008
2nd Edition: September 11, 2017


Banner of Islamic Tolerance!

Chapter V: After Muhammad
The Succession
The Quest for Booty

Chapter V: After Mohammad

The Succession

Early in the year 11 A.H. (probably on 8 June 632 A.D.), the star which had beckoned to the Arab peoples for nearly twenty three years ceased to shine.

The event caused immediate tumult. Before the Prophet Mohammad's corpse was cold, a clamour for "an amir of ours and an amir of yours" rang out in the hall of the Banu Sa'eda, where the Ansar {supporters} had hastily assembled. Rivalry for power between the Madinan Ansar and the Meccan Mohajerun was already at boiling point.


Muhammad’s Ultimatum and Mass Genocide of the Qurayzah Jews

Study of the history of Islam shows it to be a sequence of struggles for power in which the contestants treated the religion as a means, not as an end.

In the thirteen years between Mohammad's appointment to the Prophethood and his move to Madina, his mission was purely spiritual. The Qur’anic revelations from that period consist entirely of preaching, guidance, and exhortation to do good and shun evil. In the Madinan period, the spiritual tone is less marked and much of the content is made up of instructions and laws intended to strengthen the Moslems against their foes and to lay the foundation of a political and national entity. The intention was fulfilled. Favourable circumstances also helped to bring a new Islamic community and state into being.

While it is clear from the Qur’an and the reports of the Prophet's actions that the Meccan and Madinan periods were very different, there can be no question that his goal was always to implant Islam. It was eventually achieved under the flag of a state.

All the Prophet's decisions were taken in pursuit of this goal. Use of force, political assassination, and bloodshed with no apparent legal or moral excuse were among the tactics chosen to promote Islam's advance.

After the Prophet's death, however, ambition for the leadership replaced zeal for the religion as the pivotal motive. At the same time there was unanimous agreement that Islam, having been the cause of the new state's rise, was necessary for its survival or, in simpler language, that the religion which had made the leadership possible must be resolutely maintained. In the event, Islamic principles and Prophetic custom were strictly observed in the twelve years of the caliphates of Abu Bakr (11/632-13/634) and Omar (13/634-23/644); but the further the Prophet's death receded into the past, the greater became the tendency to treat the religion as a means rather than as an end in itself - to use it as an instrument for seizure of the leadership and the rulership.

As soon as the Prophet's death became known; Sa'd b. Obada (the chief of the Khazrajite Ansar) made a bid for the leadership of the whole Moslem community. An adroit move by Omar secured the leadership for Abu Bakr and consigned Sa'd b. Obada to oblivion. Abu Bakr repaid his debt to Omar by defining the leadership as the "succession (khelafat) to the Prophet", i.e. caliphate, and by recommending that Omar should be chosen as the next caliph. Omar, on his deathbed after being stabbed, appointed a six-man committee to choose his own successor, though he was actually in favour of' Abd or-Rahman b. Awf. The committee's choice, however, fell on Othman, whose caliphate was ended by assassination in 35/656. Despite the allegiance then given to Ali, the five years of his caliphate were spent in fighting civil wars (at the battles of the camel, Seffin, and Nahrawan) and in contending with the hostile designs of Mo'awiya and Amr b. o1-As until he too was assassinated in 40/661. The Omayyad caliphate of  Mo'awiya and his successors, the killing of Ali's son Hosayn in 61/680, the desecration of the Ka'ba in the fighting against Abdollah b. oz-Zobayr in 64/683, the Hashemite propaganda and the fall of the Omayyads, the' Abbasid takeover of the caliphate, the rival Fatemid caliphate in the west and the revolutionary Esma'ilite movements in the east, the events which culminated in the fall of Baghdad to Hulagu Khan's Mongols in 656/1258 - all these were symptoms of the same mania for power in the guise of succession to the Prophet of Islam.

How was the government which Mohammad's spiritual energy and the Qur’anic revelations had brought into being to be run after his decease? Ought the Prophet to have designated his successor and thus made clear to the new community of Moslems where their duty lay? Ought the Prophet's companions to have somehow reached agreement on the choice of his successor? Since the prophethood had been a God-given trust, ought the future spiritual leadership (emamate) of the Moslems to partake of the same characteristics? If the Prophet had named a successor, whom would he have chosen? Would he have selected his nephew and son-in-law Ali, the finest man in his own clan of Hashem, the first male convert to Islam, a warrior whose bravery had served the cause well and protected his own life from danger?

Would his choice have fallen on Abu Bakr, a senior and much respected man whose conversion in the early days of the mission had brought credit to Islam, who had accompanied him and shared the shelter of a cave with him on his flight to Madina, who had given him a beautiful daughter in marriage? Or would he have preferred Omar, a man of firm will and keen political acumen and a staunch defender of the faith?

But had the Prophet ever thought of naming his successor? Why had he shown no sign of such an intention during the ten years of his career at Madina? Yet is it conceivable that the Prophet, who had built up the Islamic community and government from nothing and always shown great statesmanship and foresight, should have neglected such an important matter? Would the Prophet, who in the last days of his life had identified Arab nationalism with Islam by saying that there must henceforth be only one religion in Arabia, have left the future of the new state to chance?

Many such questions spring to the mind. They can never be answered. All the suggestions that have been made are mere conjecture. The problem lay at the root of most of the conflicts which were to trouble the future course of Islam.

It certainly appears that the Prophet made no definite provision for the succession. Well authenticated reports state that the Prophet, during a stop at the Pool of  Khomm (Ghadir Khomm) on his way back to Madina after his farewell pilgrimage in 10 A.H./632, took Ali by the hand and said, "Those whose friend I am, Ali is their friend." (The word mawla, literally "made near", was used with two meanings: "protector and befriender", or "protege and befriended"). In the Shi'ite belief, these words of the Prophet were his designation of Ali to be his successor. The Sunnites reject this belief; if they accept the truth of the statement at all, they interpret the Prophet's words as commendation of Ali for his services to the Islamic cause, which all Moslems acknowledge. If it can be argued that the Prophet's utterance at Ghadir Khomm was his designation of Ali, it can be equally well argued that his order from his deathbed to Abu Bakr to go to the mosque and take his place as leader of the prayer indicated his desire to be succeeded by Abu Bakr.

The theory of the caliphate held by the Sunnite Moslems conflicts with the Shi'ite belief but at first sight may seem convincing. They maintain that the revelation of the words "Today I have perfected your religion for you and completed My bounty to you" (in verse 5 of sura 5, ol-Ma'eda) marked the end of Mohammad's prophetic mission and limited the obligations of Moslems to those laid on them by the Qur’an. On this assumption, the Qur’anic legislation is perfect and complete. Hence it is not necessary that there should be a divinely guided and infallible successor to the Prophet (as the Shi'ites believe); it is sufficient that the leadership of the Moslems should be held by a man who is earnest in enforcing the Qur’anic commandments and in following the example of the Prophet's conduct. The Prophet's companions therefore had the right to appoint a successor who was well qualified to direct the Moslem community's affairs in accordance with the Qur’an and the sanna (Prophetic custom and precedent).

This Sunnite theory, for all its plausibility, is an example of ex post facto reasoning, being based on a particular interpretation of the course of events under the first Jour caliphs. Careful study of the history of the caliphate proves the theory to be unsound.

The dispute in the hall of the Banu Sa'eda shows clearly that what was uppermost in the minds was ambition for the leadership, not concern to find a successor capable of directing affairs in accordance with the Qur’an and the sanna. At that meeting both the Ansar and the Mohajerun {emigrants} claimed precedence, the former on the ground of their help, the latter on that of their kinship, to the Prophet.
Nobody from the Prophet's own clan, the Banu Hashem, took part in this meeting of chiefs to decide the succession. His cousin Ali and his uncle Abbas, who were his closest relatives, did not attend. Also absent were two of "the ten to whom paradise was promised" (i.e. the first ten male converts to Islam), namely Talha b. Obaydollah and Zobayr b. ol-Awwam; they were at Ali's house, busy making arrangements for the washing and burial of the Prophet's corpse. When Ali was told that the meeting had been held and that the Mohajerun had prevailed over the Ansar on the strength of the argument that they were of the Prophet's "tree", he is reported to have said, "They have put up the argument of the tree, but they have lost (sight of) the fruit.”

As for Zobayr, the news of the meeting reportedly made him shout in anger, "I shall not sheathe my sword until I get them to swear allegiance to Ali.”

The reports of Abu Sofyan's remarks run as follows: "O descendants of Abd Manaf (the common ancestor of the Omayyad and Hashemite clans), a sandstorm has blown up which cannot be calmed with smooth words. Why should Abu Bakr thwart you? Have they placed the successionin the poorest clan of the Qoraysh (Le. Abu Bakr's clan) because they do not find Abbas and Ali lowly enough?" Then he turned to Ali and said, "Give me your hand so that I may swear allegianceto you! I will fill Madina with mounted men and foot-soldiers if you so wish." Ali refused his offer of allegiance.

It certainly appears that, with the single exception of Ali, whose sincere devotion to the Prophet and faith in Islam had raised him to a moral plane well above the oldArab standard, all the chief figures were actuated by ambition to rule. A report which confirms this view, and is quoted in Tabari's Annals as well as Ebn Hesham's Biography, deserves repetition here: "Ali went out of the Prophet's house on the last day of his illness. People thronged around Ali, asking him about the Prophet's health, and Ali answered them, 'He is recovering, thank God.' Abbas took Ali aside and said, 'In my opinion he is dying. I have seen on his face the same signs that were on the (aces of the sons of Abd ol- Mottaleb before their deaths. Go back to the Prophet and ask who is to take charge after him! If the authority is to be with us, we shall be informed; if it is to be with others, he will recommend us (to them).' Ali replied, 'I shall never ask such a question. If he withholds it from us, nobody in future will turn to us.'“

It is an undeniable fact that the reigns of the first two caliphs' turned out well. While their accessions may have been contrived by questionable means and without unanimous agreement of the Prophet's companions, their methods of government did not deviate from the Qur’an and the sanna. Abu Bakr and Omar were honest men. Although Ali, as the most eligible candidate for the succession, waited for six months before he swore allegiance to Abu Bakr, he did not, according to the reports, show any similar hesitation to swear allegiance to Omar.

The same cannot be said of the third caliph. In Othman's reign, deviation from Qur’anic norms took place on such a scale that the whole Moslem community smouldered and a revolt flared up.

There had been a semblance of democracy in Othman's succession, in that the choice was made by a committee and supported by public opinion. Omar had appointed the six members of the committee and instructed them to choose one of themselves as his successor. The six men were Ali, Othman, Talha, Zobayr, Sa'd b. Abi'l-Waqqas, and Abd or-Rahman b. Awf.  On the proposal of Abd or-Rahman b. Awf, the caliphate was offered to either Ali or Othman; when Ali expressed reluctance, Abd or-Rahman b. Awf swore allegiance to Othman, and the others followed his lead. In order to gauge public opinion, Abd or-Rahman had conducted a sort of referendum in the preceding three days.

Nevertheless the reign of this caliph who had risen to power with the whole community's approval soon fell short of the standard set by the Prophet. No fewer than fifty wrongdoings by Othman have been recorded. For most of these the ambition and greed of members of his clan were to blame. Othman himself was a modest man, but he was too weak to resist the importunities of his relatives. His weakness stood in marked contrast to Omar's firmness. Not even the advice of wise companions of the Prophet could make him take heed.

The most popular of all the choices for the caliphate was that of Ali. His accession was welcomed by public opinion at Madina and by most companions of the Prophet. In his short reign, however, he had to fight three civil wars and to face conspiracy and perfidy {treachery} from many different quarters. Even the Prophet's veteran companions Talha and Zobayr broke their oaths of allegiance to Ali, and took up arms against him because he refused to give them the governorships of Kufa and Basra respectively.
Dozens more cases of this kind could be cited. History shows that the Sunnite theory of the caliphate, even if it can be accepted in principle, was belied in practice and did not work to the good of the Islamic community. Greed for power and wealth prevailed over concern to enforce the commandments of the Qur’an and rules of the sonna.

This again raises the question whether the Prophet Mohammad was more competent than any other person or group to appoint his successor. Surely, it will be thought, he was uniquely well qualified to do so, not only by his gift of inspiration and prophethood but also by his possession of intellectual and moral strengths and other qualities far exceeding those of his contemporaries, by his absolute devotion to the Islamic cause, and in particular by his knowledge of human nature and of the characters of his companions. Yet he refrained from this step, even at the zenith of his career when nobody would have dared to oppose him. Why did he refrain? Did he give no thought to such an important matter as the choice of his successor? Or did he think that the time was not ripe and that he would have many more years in which to make the choice?

The Prophet was not very old when he fell ill; by all accounts he was in his sixty third year. His illness was short. There are grounds for supposing that he did not regard it as mortal but expected until the last day that he would recover. This must have been the reason why on the first day he asked his wives to let him be nursed at A'esha's house. He is reported to have said jokingly to A'esha, who had a headache, "Are you 'going to die before me and give me the tasks of getting your corpse washed and saying the prayer at your funeral?" Her reply, also jocular, was "In that case you could enjoy the company of your wives at my house without having to worry." Clearly the Prophet did not then expect his illness to be fatal.

This supposition is supported by the following fact. Shortly before that time the Prophet had mustered a force to attack the Christian Arabs in Syria and had appointed Zayd b. Haretha's son Osama, who was only twenty years old, to be its commander. This choice caused annoyance among the Moslem troops, because many worthy veterans from the Mohajerun and the Ansar were to serve in the force. Reports of widespread grumbling angered the Prophet so much that, after the start of his fever, he wound a wrap around his head and walked to the mosque, where he declared from the pulpit that the people's discontent was a form of disobedience and that Osama b. Zayd was in every way the best choice. This action silenced the grumblers; it also indicates that the Prophet expected a short illness and a quick recovery.

Weight is added to this supposition by the fact that the Prophet died before he had attended to another matter just as important for the future of Islam as the choice of a successor. He had not arranged for the Qur’an to be collected and edited under his supervision.

The Qur’an is the warrant of Mohammad's prophethood and the authoritative scripture of the Moslems. At the time of Mohammad's death it had not been collected and stored in one place, but was scattered among his companions and the scribes of the revelation.

Many problems which were to trouble future theologians and commentators would have been solved if he had ordered its collection and personally supervised its editing. Different textual readings would not have gained currency, abrogating and abrogated verses would have been identified, and above all, the suras and verses would have been placed in the chronological sequence of their revelation, as Ali is reported to have done.

According to certain accounts, Zayd b. Thabet, who had been one of the Prophet's two chief scribes, made the following statement: "Abu Bakr summoned me and said, "Omar has for some time been pressing me to have the Qur’an collected and edited. I was unwilling, because if collecting and editing the Qur’an had been necessary, the Prophet himself would have attended to the matter. But at the battle of Yamama (fought in Central Arabia against the rival prophet Mosaylema), so many companions of God's Apostle have been killed, and so many pieces of the Qur’an which they took with them have been lost, that I now concur with Omar's opinion.'“

The significant point is that it was Omar who saw the need for this step and persuaded the caliph Abu Bakr to take it. Many years passed, however, before the editorial work was completed. The text which was finally prepared under the supervision of a committee appointed by Othman is regrettably not ordered in chronological sequence of the revelations. The texts in the possession of Ali b. Abi Taleb and Abdollah b. Mas'ud were not consulted.

The suras are placed illogically in order of decreasing length, when at least the Meccan suras might have been placed first and the Madinan suras last. There are also misplacements of Meccan verses inside Madinan suras and of Madinan verses inside Meccan suras.

In any case the fact that the Prophet did not arrange for the Qur’an to be edited suggests that death caught him off guard.

There is evidence that not until the last day did he sense that the illness would be fatal. That day has been recorded as either 28 Safar 11 A.H., or (more probably) 13 Rabi' ol-Awwalll A.H. corresponding to 8th June 632. It was then that the fever became acute and made him unconscious. Later he awoke and, in evident awareness of death's approach, said to those around him, "Bring me an inkwell and a sheet so that I may write something (or cause something to be written) for you! After that, you will not err in future." Regrettably this last request of the Prophet was not carried out. Those present were at first astonished and then began arguing among themselves. One of them said, "Is he raving? Ought we to chant an exorcism?"

Zaynab b. Jahsh and some of the companions said, "You ought to bring the things that the Prophet has said he wants." Omar said, "His fever is too severe. You have the Qur’an. God's book is enough for us." The argumentation, between those in favour of letting the Prophet write or dictate a letter which would avert future error and those against letting him do so on the ground that the Qur’an gave sufficient guidance, went on for a long time and distressed the Prophet so much that he told them to stop quarrelling in his presence. None of them knew what the Prophet wished to write or, since he probably could not write, to dictate. Did he intend to name his successor? To pronounce on a matter not already determined in the Qur’an, or to abrogate a Qur’anic ordinance? To spell out a policy for the advancement of the Arab nation? If it was a matter of importance for the future of Islam, why did not he make it known orally? The enigma can never be solved.

There is a further vexed question which has caused much controversy. Why did Omar, a strong and steadfast man wholly committed to Islam and its founder, argue against bringing the writing material and recording the Prophet's last testament on the pretext that the Qur’an was sufficient? Did Omar really think that the Prophet's fever had made him speak deliriously? Or did Omar, with his keen eye and realistic prescience, sense that the Prophet was going to name a successor before death came and would probably name Ali, in which case Omar would never hold any real power because the Prophet's testament would be respected by the great majority of the Moslems? This is what the Shi'ites believe; they may well be not far off the mark, because no other convincing reason can be found to explain why Omar objected to fulfilment of the Prophet's last request.

Omar was an outstanding figure in Islam, one of the Prophet's most respected and influential companions and a pillar of support in political matters. In addition to statesmanship, he had always shown ability to judge character and think ahead. It is therefore likely that he made a calculation. If the Prophet was about to name a successor, the choice would probably fall on either' Ali or Abu Bakr. Ali was the most distinguished member of the Hashemite clan, being a son-in-law of the Prophet, a valiant fighter, and a scribe of the revelation, and he had a mind and will of his own; he would naturally not be susceptible to another man's influence. Abu Bakr was Omar's staunch friend; throughout the ten years at Madina, Omar had been in closer touch with Abu Bakr than with the Prophet's other companions, and on most matters the two saw eye to eye. If the choice of the successor lay between Ali and Abu Bakr, Omar was bound to prefer Abu Bakr. Since Abu Bakr's clan was not influential, and since his temperament was modest and placid, Omar could look forward to becoming his right-hand man. Under Ali, who would have the support of the whole Hashemite clan and the respect of many companions of the Prophet, Omar could expect to be side-tracked. Another point unlikely to have escaped Omar's sharp mind was Abu Bakr's age; he was then over sixty. This seniority, which. was one of the reasons why Abu Bakr enjoyed general respect, must have strengthened Omar's hope that the choice would fall on Abu Bakr rather than Ali, whose age was then only thirty two. In short, Abu Bakr's appoinunent would in several ways offer a better prospect for Omar's political ambition.

Such considerations may well explain Omar's unease over the Prophet's request for writing material and probable intention to make a will. Also present in his mind may have been another concern. It would not be easy to accept that after the prophethood, the rulership should remain in the Hashemite family and that the door should be closed to other aspirants.

It is of course possible that the Prophet's intention was not to appoint a successor but to deal with a different matter; but it certainly looks as ifOmar's intention was to avert the risk of being faced with a fait accompli. Not wishing to disclose his intuition that the Prophet was about to make a will, he pretended that the Prophet had spoken in the extremity of fever and was not in a state to add anything to the Qur’an, which had been revealed to him when he was in good health and contained all the commandments that were needed.

In this context another question springs to the mind. If the Prophet intended to appoint his successor, why did not he announce the name orally? When the argumentation began and Omar prevented the bringing of the writing material, could not the Prophet have said enough to indicate his decision, which in the Shi'ite belief was that Ali should succeed him? Since the number of those present in the room was quite large, the news of his last wish would soon have spread around the Moslem community. Was there a reason why he did not make his decision known orally? At first sight this is another unfathomable mystery.

It must not be forgotten, however, that Mohammad always acted with a purpose. During the twenty three years of his prophetic career, an idea had taken root and gathered such strength in his mind that it can be said to have become a part of his personality. This was the goal of creating a new society based on Islam and incorporating Arab nationalism. The Prophet, with his innate sagacity and exceptional understanding of human nature, was well aware of the idiosyncrasies and merits of his companions. He certainly understood the character of Omar, having had many occasions to observe his objectivity and foresight, his tenacity of purpose, and his moral strength. The Prophet also knew of Omar's friendship with Abu Bakr. Omar ever since his conversion had been one of the Prophet's closest companions and on several occasions had pressed the Prophet to take decisions or initiatives which had contributed to the progress of Islam. In other words, Omar was not a dutiful follower like Abu Bakr, but a man with his own ideas and opinions, which he often propounded to the Prophet and which the Prophet often adopted. In Soyuti's Etqan there is a chapter entitled "Passages in the Qur’an which were revealed at the suggestion of the companions"; among them are many which were revealed at the suggestion of Omar. According to Mojahed b. Jabr (an early traditionist), "Omar used to express an opinion, and then it was sent down in the Qur’an.” Omar himself is reported to have thought that three verses were revealed at his suggestion; the verse of veiling (sura 33, ol-Ahzab, 53), the verse of the prisoners (i.e. those taken at Badr; sura 8, ol-Anfal, 68), and the verse of Abraham's stopping-place (i.e. the Ka'ba; sura 2, ol-Baqara, 119). The traditionalists, biographers, and Qur’an-commentators have much to say on this subject. Their writings make it amply clear that Omar was intelligent and wise and that the Prophet trusted him. Certainly there were not more than five men of comparable worth among the Prophet's companions.

Such a man would not have obstructed the writing of the testament unless he had a motive. If the  Prophet named Ali orally, there would be a risk that after his death the appointment might be challenged by Omar, Abu Bakr, and their associates and that the Islamic cause might thereby suffer great damage. In Mohammad's lifetime, the boundless prestige of the prophethood had enabled him to take whatever steps he deemed right. Not long ago he had given an army command to the young Osama b. Zayd in the face of widespread criticism, which he had silenced with a terse rebuke.

But after his death how would matters stand? When he was no longer there, who would have the ability to suppress tribal strife and curb ambitions for wealth and power? What would happen to the new Islamic community whose creation had been his great goal? Would the Arabs relapse into internecine feuding and fighting? Perhaps reflections such as these crossed the Prophet's mind and prompted him to stay silent, apart from his request to the people to leave the room. Other reasons why the Prophet did not, after all, appoint a successor can of course also be surmised.

As for Ali, he had a record of merits which both his friends and his foes acknowledged. He had never worshipped idols and had become a believer at the age of eleven. He had fought in the principal raids, shielded the Prophet from mortal danger at the battle of Mount Ohod, felled the Qorayshite champion Amr b. Abd Wodd in the war of the trench, and stormed the fortress of Natom at Khaybar. On the night before the hejra (which the Prophet, together with Abu Bakr, had spent in a cave), Ali had slept on the Prophet's bed and faced the risk of assassination. He had killed more enemies than any other companion of the Prophet had done. He had won esteem for his courage, frankness, eloquence, and exactness in following the Prophet's example. He was the most distinguished man of the Prophet's own clan, the Banu Hashem.
All these virtues, however, may have been offset by Ali's youth, because he was the youngest of the Prophet's companions, and by his double kinship to the Prophet as cousin (son of the Prophet's paternal uncle) and son-in-law (husband of the Prophet's surviving daughter, Fatima). There was a risk that designation of Ali as the successor might be attributed to nepotism and thus kindle clan jealousies which could impair Moslem unity and well-being.

Other virtues for which' Ali was well known may perhaps have been obstacles in the way of his advancement to the leadership. To govern men of unbridled ambition, the future leader would require composure, moderation, and regard for the legitimate needs and aspirations of his subordinates - qualities which the Prophet himself had amply evinced. After the conquest of Mecca, the Prophet had refrained from inflicting the death penalty on stubborn adversaries except in a very few cases, and he had distributed the booty taken from the Hawazen tribe among the Qoraysh chiefs. Ali, however, was inflexible in his handling of such matters. He was never willing to consider demands which he deemed improper. In the campaign in the Yaman under Ali's command in 10 A.H./631-2, the troops had demanded that the abundant booty should be distributed among them on the spot, but Ali had ignored them and insisted on delivering all the booty to the Prophet; the outcome had been that the Prophet determined an equitable distribution and exonerated Ali from complaints made by the troops. At a later date, when Othman, after becoming caliph, consulted Ali about the case of Obaydollah b. Omar who had killed Hormozan (an Iranian general taken captive and employed as an adviser at Madina) because he suspected Hormozan of complicity with his father's assassin88 Ali unhesitatingly advised that Obaydollah was liable under Islamic law to the penalty of retribution in kind. Othman did not act on Ali's advice; he spared the life of the second caliph's son by letting him pay blood money instead and then sending him to Iraq.

The Prophet fully understood Ali's character. He was well aware of Ali's virtues and also knew that Ali was an uncompromising stickler for what he deemed to be right. This idealism, while intrinsically praiseworthy, might not be altogether appropriate in the practical handling of men whose religious faith would probably be coupled with ambition or cupidity. If Ali's leadership would alarm the men of that type, the community might be rent by dissension and the great goal might not be achieved.

In the short period of Ali's caliphate (18 Dhu'l-Hejja 35/17 June 656-17 Ramadan 40/24th January 661), the self-seekers were indeed alarmed. His unwillingness to let sinners continue, even temporarily, to rule over Moslems brought him into conflict with Mo'awiya, the governor of Syria. His view of the matter also antagonized the two senior companions of the Prophet, Talha and Zobayr, who likewise took up arms against him.

Whatever the reasons may have been, the succession was undecided when the Prophet passed away. This fact may perhaps be an indication of the Prophet's wisdom and foresight. It is possible that the Prophet finally resolved not to set one faction over another but to let the struggle for power and leadership take its natural course, in expectation that the principle now called the survival of the fittest would ensure Islam's survival.

The matter brings to mind a somewhat similar event in modern history. Lenin from his sickbed sent a letter to the Soviet communist party's central committee. Being unable to attend the committee's meetings, he was obliged to write this letter, which came to be known as Lenin's testament. In it he praised the qualities of the committee's two leading members, Stalin and Trotsky, and described both men as vital components of the new regime, but could not conceal his anxiety about the risk of future conflict between them. He even mentioned the demerits as well as the merits of each. Yet he too chose silence on the succession problem, leaving its solution to the workings of the law of survival of the fittest (or strongest).

Before the advent of Islam, the Arabs used to boast about the superiority of their tribe, clan, or genealogy over those of others.  Their claims to superiority were not based on virtues and graces but on prowess in killing, plundering, and abducting other men's women. The teachings of Islam negated this concept and made piety the measure of a person's merit. Unfortunately the new standard was not long maintained in practice - to be precise, not after Omar's death in 23/644. During Othman's reign, nepotism prevailed over piety. Devout men such as Abu Dharr ol-GheIari89 and Ammar b. Yaser90were thrust aside, and members of the caliph's clan such as Mo'awiya b. Abi Sofyan and ol-Hakam b. Abi'l-As were appointed to governorships.

Under the Omayyad caliphate (41/661-132/750), the great Islamic principle of nobility through piety was simply ignored. Tribal and national pride again held sway, but in a broader setting. The demands of Arab nationalism could now be satisfied at the expense of the conquered peoples.

Men from the barren deserts of Arabia had overrun large parts of the civilized world. The conquest of peoples formerly renowned for imperial power and material wealth intoxicated the Arabs with pride. Supposing their own nation to be superior and the conquered nations to be inferior, they despised those nations and never recognised them as equal. They did not even concede to those who became Moslem the equality of rights enshrined in Islamic law.

It is related that when a converted Iranian protégé of an Arab tribe, the Banu Solaym, married one of their women, a tribesman named Mohammad b. Bashir went to Madina and complained about the matter to the governor, Ebrahim b. Hesham b. ol- Moghira. The governor then sent agents who gave the Iranian a flogging of two hundred lashes, shaved his head, face, and eyebrows, and forced him to divorce his wife. Mohammad b. Bashir composed an ode on the subject which is preserved in the Ketab ol-Aghani 91 Some lines from it are translated below:

You respected custom and judged justly.
You had not inherited the governorship from an alien.
The (non-Arab) protégé received an exemplary punishment in the two hundred (lashes), in the shaving of the eyebrows and cheeks.
When the daughters of Kesra92 are suitable mates for them, are the protégés to get still more?
What do protégés rightly deserve?
Marriage of slaves to slaves.

Another informative story comes in the Oyun o/-akhbar of Ebn Qotayba: 93

"An Arab went to a qadi (judge) and said, 'My father has died leaving a will that his property be divided between my brother, myself, and a hajin (an Arabic word meaning ignoble which was applied to a son by a non-Arab woman). What is the share of each?' The qadi answered, 'There is no problem. Each brother is entitled to one third of the property.' The Arab said, 'You have not understood our problem. We are two brothers and one hajin.' The qadi answered, Each has the right to an equal share.' The Arab asked angrily, 'How can a hajin be equal to us?' The qadi answered, 'That is God's commandment.'“

Hundreds of similar reports from the early Islamic centuries have been handed down. They give proof that Islam was used as a means to power and as an instrument of domination over other peoples. The humane commandments and teachings of the Qur’an were neither enforced nor observed. Pagan Arab notions of superiority were reasserted in the Islamic context. Non-Arab Moslems, however, remained mindful of Islam's great precept, "The noblest among you in God's sight are the most pious among you" (sura 49, ol-Hojorat, verse 13). The Sho'ubiya movement (of Iranian cultural revival) began in reaction to these Arab prett:nsions and might never have arisen if the Islam of Mohammad b. AbdolHihand the course of AbuBakr,Omar, and Ali had been maintained.

The Quest for Booty

Certain Western scholars who have studied Islam regard it as a regional phenomenon and criticize many of its commandments as unsuitable for advanced societies. Among the examples which they cite are the obligations to perform ritual prayer and ablution five times in every twenty four hours and preferably in a mosque; to measure time in years of twelve lunar months; and to fast and refrain from vital activity from sunrise to sunset during one of those months, regardless of the geographical fact that in high latitudes there are seasons when the sun does not set and the daylight is continuous. In the view of these Western scholars, the legislator of the Ramadan fast only had knowledge of conditions in the Hejaz in the 7th century, and standardized them because he was ignorant of conditions elsewhere. The ban on lending at interest is criticized as harmful to capital investment and economic development. The permissibility of slavery is seen as legalizing treatment of human beings as animals. The inequality of women's inheritance rights with those of men, when women have the greater need because they do not normally perform wealthpr6ducing functions, is considered irrational, and the presumption that women's testimony has half the value of men's is judged to be a denial of human rights. The penalties of hand-amputation for/theft and foot-amputation for repeated theft are deemed antisocial because they make the convicts disabled and unemployable. Polygamy up to the limit of four contractual wives, unlimited concubinage with slave women including married women whose husbands have been taken prisoner, and the adoption of stoning. for adultery from Jewishlaware condemned as inhumane. The restriction of freedom of testamentary disposition is regarded as inconsistent with the Islamic legal principle that "people have control of their properties and their persons." The upshot of all the criticisms is that such a religion cannot be universally and permanently valid.

If is of course a fact that many of these commandments, such as stoning, amputation, and "eye for eye, tooth for tooth" retaliation, are no longer observed in most Moslem countries, and that banks which pay and charge interest have been started in all Moslem countries. When this fact is mentioned, the critics make caustic comments on the hajj. They say that calling an idol-temple God's house, treating the ancient pagan rite of kissing a black stone as an Islamic ceremony, and all the other pilgrimage rites are inconsistent with Islam's claim to have saved people from idolatry and superstition and must be interpreted as expressions of racial feeling. No religion, they argue, can be universal and permanent unless it guides the whole of mankind to goodness and transcends all racialism and fanaticism.

These critics too often forget that the best laws are those which fill gaps and combat evils existing in the society concerned. In a land where killing, plundering, and violation of other people's rights and honour were commonplace, sternness alone could be effective. Amputation, stoning, and retaliation might be the only remedies in such circumstances. Slavery was and had been practiced by contemporary and earlier civilized 'peoples such as the Romans and the Assyrians and Chaldaeans; and in Islam manumission of a slave atones for many a sin. As already noted in the section on Women in Islam in chapter 3, pagan Arab women had no rights; a deceased man's wife could even be transferred to his heir as a part of his estate. The Qur’anic legislation concerning women marked a revolutionary advance. It is absurd to assess the deeds and commands of a leader who lived in the 7th century by standards current in the 19th and 20th centuries; to argue, for instance, that the Prophet Mohammad ought to have acted like Abraham Lincoln in regard to slavery.

Many of the criticisms can be met with counterclaims. Even on the important point of freedom of thought and belief, it can be argued that the Moslems were justified in giving inhabitants of conquered territories the choice between profession of Islam and payment of tribute. By the standards of advanced 20th century thinking, however, the use of the sword to compel profession of Islam was obviously improper and unjust.

Nor can modern thought accept that Almighty God chose the Arabs of 7th century Arabia to guide the whole of mankind. If God had been so concerned that the peoples of Syria, Egypt, and Iran should become Moslem, gender means were available, because in the words of the Qur’an (e.g. sura 16, verse 95) "He leads astray whomsoever He wills and guides aright whomsoever He wills." The fact that people cannot be guided by the sword is made clear in verse 44 of sura 8 (ol-Anfal): "Those who perish shall perish by clear proof and those who survive shall survive by clear proof." Verse 6 of sura 109 (ol- Kaferun), which states "You have your religion and I have my religion," and dozens of other Qur’anic verses with the same import can be cited in confirmation of this thesis.

Study of the matter leads to the surprising conclusion that the grant of choice to profess Islam or pay tribute was a policy for dealing with the inhabitants of Arabia, and that it was only adopted after the capture of Khaybar and, above all, the conquest of Mecca and submission of the Qorayshites. The Prophet Mohammad intended to turn Arabia into a single political unit, and according to a well-authenticated Hadith, he therefore announced that "there must not be more than one religion in the Arabian peninsula."

The conquest of Mecca was followed by the revelation of a verse (sura 9, ot-Tawba, 28) which declares that polytheists are unclean and may no longer approach the Mosque of the Sanctuary. Several passages in the same sura give evidence of the Prophet's resolve to form an Arab national entity under the banner of Islam. Stern measures and use of force are threatened against the Bedouin, whom verse 98 describes as "the most stubborn in unbelief and hypocrisy and the most likely to ignore the limits of what God has revealed to His Apostle." The words "If We had sent it down to a non-Arab" in sura 26 (osh-Sho'ara), verse 198, suggests that foreigners were quicker than Arabs to understand and accept the Qur’an and its teachings.

Among all the observations made by European scholars are two which remain virtually unanswerable. One concerns the irrationality of the idea that God commissioned the Hejazi Arabs to teach morality and monotheism to the world's peoples at sword-point. Since this is hard to believe, the subject will not be pursued here. The other observation concerns the economic impulse to the Arab conquests.

In the previous section of this chapter, it was noted that ambition for leadership and rulership has shaped the political history of Islam ever since the death of the Prophet. There is also plenty of evidence that the Arab conquests were motivated by desire to seize the wealth of other peoples.

The rough men who eked meagre livings from their arid soil knew well that beyond their borders lay fertile lands and prosperous cities where necessities and luxuries were in ample supply. Unfortunately these populous areas belonged to the mighty empires of Iran and Rome, and could not conceivably be seized by any band of poor, ill-equipped nomads. Islam, however, ended the internecine strife of the Arab tribes, broadened their horizons, and forged their dispersed strength into a powerful whole. The impossible then became possible. .

These poor people had been wont to indulge their greed by rustling two or three hundred camels in a raid on a weaker tribe. Combined in a single force, they became able to seize far more booty, to conquer rich and fertile lands, to gain possession of beautiful, white-skinned women and priceless treasures. They had never feared to risk their lives in pursuit of loot or lust. Under the banner of Islam, they marched not only in hope of booty but also in confidence that if they killed they would go to heaven and if they were killed they would go to heaven. This belief satisfied a pressing spiritual need, as they also craved for glory and mastery. Attacks by the Tamim tribe on the Taghleb tribe, by the Aws on the Khairaj, by the Thaqif on the Ghatatan, were no longer possible; instead, the sights of all could be set on Syriaand Iraq. .

As already noted in the third section of chapter III, booty had been an important factor in the implantation of Islam and consolidation of the Moslem community. The capture of the Qorayshite caravan at Nakhla in the second year after the hejra had strengthened the position of the Moslems, and the subsequent seizure of part of the property of the Banu Qaynoqa' and all of the property of the Banu Qorayza had put their finances on a sound footing.

The insatiable Arab thirst for booty is vividly depicted in the Qur’an (sura 48, al-Fat-h, verse 15): "Those who lagged behind will say, when you set out to take booty, 'Let us accompany YOU!'“ The verse refers to certain Bedouin who had shrunk from fighting the Qoraysh and taking part in the Pledge under the Tree, but later wanted to join the expedition against the Jews of Khaybar in order to share in the abundant booty which God promised to the Moslems.

During the Khaybar campaign, the Prophet offered a share of the booty to the Ghatatan tribe and thereby dissuaded them from helping the local Jews, with whom they were allied.

The Accounts of the first decade after the hejra give many other instances of the Arab greed for booty. One which has already been mentioned in the fifth section of chapter III deserves particular note, namely the discontent of the Ansar when booty taken from the defeated Hawazen tribe was distributed among leading Qorayshites.

The reports give proof of (the predatory instinct of the Arabs and at the same time of the Prophet's understanding of his people's mentality.

In discussion of this matter, it is important to bear in mind that the Prophet's recourse to measures such as attack on caravans and elimination or subjugation of Jewish communities was prompted by a higher aim than the Arab desire to amass wealth. Mohammad was also a statesman, and in the minds of statesmen the end justifies the means. He aimed to implant Islam, to eradicate the corrupt polytheists and the hypocrites, and to found a united Arab state under the banner of Islam. Any steps which conduced to that lofty goal were permissible.

The proceeds of the attacks and raids were used for the good of the still small Moslem community, not for the Prophet's personal benefit. He himself was content with a very modest life-style. After the confiscation of the houses and belongings of the Banu Qorayza, his wives demanded higher allowances out of the rich booty, but he gave them the choice of bearing with their present allowances or divorce. .

The Prophet's chief companions, in keeping with his example, also lived modestly. As long as he was present, none of them fell into the grip of cupidity. After his death, however, and particularly after the great influx of booty from conquered lands far beyond the borders of Arabia, many of them succumbed.

The second caliph Omar took care to maintain a firm hand. In the apportionment of booty and pensions to leaders of the Mohajerun, the Ansar, and other worthies at Madina, he always acted moderately and equitably. Being anxious to keep the people on the Prophet's path, he himself led an austere life. The freedman Salem (an early transmitter of Hadith) is reported to have said that the value of all Omar's clothes, including turban and shoes, during his caliphate did not exceed fourteen derhams, whereas it had previously amounted to forty dinars. Omar's frugality was so strict that, according to Tabari, widespread grumbling arose in the last years of his reign; having heard about it, he ascended the pulpit one day and declared bluntly, I have striven to rear Islam. Now it is mature. The Qorayshites want to take God's bounty from the mouths of His worshippers. This will not be done while the son of ol-Khattab remains alive. I stand alert. I shall prevent the Qorayshites from leaving the straight path and going to hell.”

Tabari also states that none of the leading companions were permitted to move out of Madina without Omar's permission, and that if he ever gave such permission, it was only for a short absence or a journey within the Hejaz, because he feared that their arrival in the conquered territories might cause division in the Moslem ranks. If a prominent Qorayshite asked to join in one of the wars against foreigners, Omar would answer, "The raid in which you accompanied the Prophet is sufficient. It is better for you not to see the foreign countries and for the foreign countries not to see you.”

Commenting on Omar's strictness, the perceptive modern Egyptian scholar Taha Hosayn94 has written in his book ol- Fetnat o/-Kobra (2 vols., Cairo 1947 and 1953): "Omar was suspicious of Qorayshites, being well aware of their tribal mentality and greed for power and profit. The only ground for their claim to be the noblest Arab tribe was their custodianship of the Ka'ba, which had been the main pilgrimage centre and Idol-temple of the Arabs. In reality they had made themselves the richest tribe by exploiting the religious beliefs and customs of the Arabs. Thanks to the assured safety of Mecca and its environs, they had been able to concentrate on trade and gain a dominant position in that field. Omar knew that his Qorayshite fellow-tribesmen owed their prestige and wealth to the Ka'ba and that they would not otherwise have revered its idols. He also knew that, their acceptance of Islam had not been voluntary but had been forced on them by Mohammad's victory and by their fear of the Moslems. Moreover they still viewed their move into the Moslem camp as a risky gamble. Obviously it would be dangerous to give a free hand to such grasping opportunists.”

The soundness of Omar's judgement is attested by the course of events after his death. Although Othman left all Omar's appointees at their posts for one year in compliance with a request in Omar's will and only made changes later, from the start of his reign he made lavish payments from the public treasury to the Mohajerun and Ansar, and on one occasion he increased their pensions by one hundred per cent. While the third caliph maintained the modest life-style of his predecessors and never misappropriated public funds for his private use, his undue largess kindled envy and greed and discredited austerity and self-denial.

Reference has already been made to the modest attire and life-style of Omar, one of the strongest caliphs in Islam's history and the first to bear the title "Prince of the Believers." Equally well known is the austerity of' Ali, to which his friends and foes alike bore witness. Ali's clothes were so full of patches that he was ashamed of having given so much work to the seamstress. He sternly rebuked his brother Aqil when the latter asked for help from the public treasury to pay his debts. Aqil's subsequent recourse to Ali's adversary Mo'awiya b. Abi Sofyan is another token of the importance of the pecuniary factor in the determination of Arab attitudes.

In this context, the career of one of the greatest of the Prophet's companions, Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas, deserves notice. Converted in the early phase at Mecca, he became one of the ten to whom paradise was promised. In Omar's reign he commanded the army which defeated the Iranians at the battle of Qadesiya and took their capital, Ctesiphon, in 16/637. For this he was honoured as the "knight of Islam" and made the first governor of Kufa. In 23/644 he was appointed by the dying Omar to be one of the committee of six companions who would choose the next caliph, and naturally was himself a candidate. When he died in 55/674-5 at his mansion in the valley of ol-Aqiq near Madina, he left a fortune including cash to the value of between 200,000 and 300,000 derhams.

Nor should the conduct of this eminent companion's son be forgotten. In 61/681 Omar b. Sa'd b. Abi Waqqas received from Obaydollah b. Ziyad, the viceroy of Iraq, an offer of the governorship of Rayy in Iran if he would first take command of an expedition to intercept Hosayn b. Ali and compel the latter to acknowledge the caliphate of Yazid b. Mo'awiya or face the consequences. Omar b. Sa'd was initially reluctant to accept this commission. His relatives, with whom he discussed the matter one night, unanimously disapproved on the ground that it would be wrong for the son of a respected companion of the Prophet to risk having to fight the Prophet's grandson. Nevertheless Omar b. Sa'd's ambition and Obaydollah b. Ziyad's insistence prevailed, and Omar b. Sa'd agreed to march against Hosayn. When he encountered Hosayn's party, however, he preferred to negotiate and spent three days trying to persuade Hosayn to surrender and give allegiance to Yazid. The protracted parleys caused Obaydollah b. Ziyad to fear that feelings of honour or Islamic zeal might induce Omar b. Sa'd to go over to Hosayn. Obaydollah therefore sent a message to one of the officers, Shemr b. Dhi'l-Jowshan, ordering him to take command of the force if Omar b. Sa'd continued to procrastinate. As soon as Omar b. Sa'd learned of this, he forgot his father's record of service to Islam and his own concern to show respect for the Prophet's family. It was he who shot the first arrow at the Prophet's grandson. The governorship of Rayy meant more to him than religion, honour, and morality.

Talha b. Obaydollah, another eminent companion and one of the ten to whom paradise was promised, was likewise one of Omar's nominees for the committee of six and also a candidate for the succession; but absence from Madina prevented him from taking part in the committee, which made its choice without hearing his opinion. After his return to Madina, he adopted a dissentient attitude and refused allegiance to Othman. Finally Othman went in person to his house and offered to abdicate in his favour. Talha was embarrassed and then gave allegiance to Othman, who rewarded him with a loan of 50,000derhamsfrom the public treasury and, in recognition of his helpfulness, did not demand repayment of this substantial sum. Thereafter Talha became one of Othman's closest friends and arranged many transactions with his help; for example, if Talha wished to exchange some lands or money in Iraq for some in the Hejaz or Egypt, Othman was ready to help by sending orders to officials anywhere in the Islamic empire. When murmurs of opposition to the third caliph arose, Talha at first spoke in his favour; when they grew louder, he prudently held his tongue, and when the dissidents laid siege to Othman's house, he glibly declared himself to be on their side. Talha was killed at the battle of the camel in 36/656. There is a report that Othman's cousin, Marwan b. ol-Hakam, shot the arrow which killed TaIha and that he said, "To avenge Othman's murder, I need no more than Talha's blood.”  (Marwan, who was also an opponent of Ali, became the fourth Omayyad caliph in 64/684-65/685.) Although Talha had been far from rich at the time of his conversion and no more than moderately well-off at the end of Omar's reign, the fortune which he left was estimated at 30,000,000 derhams comprising 200,000 dinars in cash and the rest in buildings, farmlands, and chattels. A different account (in Ebn Sa'd's Tabaqat) gives Talha's cash holdings as 100 leather sacks each containing 3 qentars (quintals or hundredweights) of pure gold.

Another of the six appointed by Omar to decide the succession was (oz-) Zobayr b. ol-Awwam. He was a kinsman of the Prophet, being the son of Mohammad's paternal aunt and related in other ways also. Moreover he was an early convert and one of the ten to whom paradise was promised. Later he fought in many of the raids and wars. The Prophet had called him "my disciple". He was thus one of the most highly respected companions. There is a report that the third caliph gave 600,000 derhams from the public treasury to Zobayr, and that Zobayr himself did not know what to do with such a large sum but acted on the advice of some of his friends. He used it to buy houses and farmlands in and around various cities, and by the time of his death had numerous properties in Fostat (the later Cairo), Alexandria, Basra, and Kufa, as well as Madina where he owned eleven tenanted houses. Estimates of the total value of his estate ranged from 35,200,000 to 52,000,000 derhams. Ebn Sa'd states in his Tabaqat that Zobayr was too pious to accept deposits, for fear that the deposited goods or money might be lost or damaged in some calamity, but was willing, if people insisted, to accept loans from them, because he could invest their funds as profitably as his own funds and because his heirs would be obliged to pay his debts after his death. He in fact left debts amounting to about 2,000,000 derhams, which his son repaid.

Abd or-Rahman b. Awf, a close companion of the Prophet and one of the ten to whom paradise was promised, is remembered as a shrewd and experienced merchant. He was a trusted counsellor of Abu Bakr and Omar, and a member of the committee of six. Never ill-off, he took the lead in charitable activities. The wealth which he left, however, far exceeded any that could be gained from business in the Madina bazaar. When he died, he had four wives, each of whom inherited 50,000 gold dinars together with 1000 camels and 3000 sheep; in his will he advised them to spend their riches in God's cause.

In the third caliph's reign, there were few men of the caliber of Hakim b. Hezam, who would not accept a penny from the treasury and refused a pension when public funds were distributed to the Mohajerun and the Ansar.

Better known are the piety and austerity of Abu Dharr ol-Ghefari95 an early convert and companion of the Prophet and an important transmitter of Hadith. He held that verse 34 of sura 9 (ot-Tawba), "Those who hoard gold or silver and do not spend it in God's cause, give them notice of painful punishment!", is a commandment to all Moslems not to accumulate wealth but to spend it on charity. While living in Syria, Abu Dharr reproached the governor, Mo'awiya, for breaking this commandment. He was then banished as an undesirable and sent back to the Hejaz. At Madina he repeated the same truths, and his words reached the ears of the third caliph. He was then flogged and expelled. For the rest of his life this devout companion dwelt in a cave.

All but a few, however, succumbed to cupidity and joined in the scramble for wealth. Even the unskilled and the unconnected could make money. A man named ]annab, who had been a porter and errand-boy at Mecca, reportedly left 40,000 derhams in cash when he died at Kufa.

The shares of captured booty given to the warriors when they were on campaign and the pensions paid to them from the treasury at other times enabled them to become rich. Each of the cavalrymen who fought in Efriqiya {Africa}(now Tunisia) under the command of Abdollah b. Sa'd b. Abi Sarh received 3000 methqals of pure gold, and each of the infantrymen received 1000 Tnethqals. (One methqal is equivalentto about 4.7 grams.) .

From the hundreds of instances which are reported in the reliable sources of early Islamic history, it is obvious that the hope of taking booty, of appropriating other people's farmlands, and of capturing and enslaving other people's women was a major incentive to the Arab fighters. In their quest for these gains they neither lacked courage nor shrank from cruelty. Under the cover of Islam, they sought power, property, and ascendancy. In so doing they ignored Islam's great precept that "the noblest among you in God's sight are the most pious among you" (sura 49, verse 13).

Sooner or later this conduct was bound to provoke reactions.  Other peoples, in particular the Iranians, would not submit to such tyranny. They accepted Islam's spiritual and humane teachings, but rejected the Arab pretension to racial superiority and refused to be bled by Arab exploiters. Arab spokesmen retorted by accusing them of nationalism (sho'ubiya) and even heresy (zandaqa).

The present writer remembers reading a book entitled oz- Zandaqa wa'sh-Sho'ubiya which had been published in Egypt with a preface by a Cairo university professor. The book was an attempt to portray the national self-assertion of the Iranians as a form of heresy or deviation from Islamic principles; it contained no mention of Arab breaches of the commandment "God enjoins justice and charity" (sura 16, verse 92).
Among the caliphs styled "Princes of the _Believers" were men so debauched that they reportedly bathed in pools of wine. In flagrant disregard of the Prophet's high minded teaching that honesty and virtue are the measure of human worth, the Omayyad caliphs were bent on Arab ascendancy over other Moslems and Omayyad ascendancy over other Arabs.

There were so-called "Princes of the Believers" who mounted the pulpit to utter insults about Ali b. Abi Taleb, the most devout and learned of the Prophet's companions. The caliph Motawakkel (232/847-247/861), himself a descendant of the Prophet's other learned cousin Abdollah b. ol-Abbas, went so far as to have a clown masquerade as Ali and dance before his assembled courtiers. He also caused the site of the grave of Hosayn b. Ali to be ploughed and irrigated in the hope that memories of this brave grandson of the Prophet would thereby be effaced.

The Iranians correctly judged that men who were so profligate and so heedless of the Prophet Mohammad's teachings did not deserve the title "Prince of the Believers". Continued next page

Chapter I: Muhammad
Chapter II: Religion of Islam
Chapter III: Politics
Chapter IV: Metaphysics
Chapter V: After Muhammad
Chapter VI: Summary
Back to Islam index
Back to English Library index

       
Support IPC
 
 
 
IPC operating since March 30, 2000
 
   
 
   
    Duplication of contents are allowed, only by naming the source & link to IPC
All rights are protected & reserved by Iran Politics Club © 2000 IPC