World Religions: Islam – Lecture 3 – Muhammad as Prophet and Statesman

The following bits represent my notes and thoughts as I watch The Great Courses, “Great World Religions: Islam” by John L. Esposito.  A few things are worth noting:

  1. I encourage those with an interest to seek out the original source material.  You can do that on The Great Courses website.  My notes are just a pale shadow of the whole course but they might whet your proverbial whistle.
  2. These are just my notes and not an attempt to encapsulate the whole course.  As such, it should be painfully obvious that I’m no expert and at times prone to oversimplification and outright error.
  3. There is no third thing.  I just can’t stand having only two things in a list.

Lecture 3: Muhammad as Prophet and Statesman

Before Islam, the Middle East was a pretty rough place.  The Persians and the Byzantine Empire fought over the trade routes that crisscrossed the region while the locals formed tribes that raided each other for material wealth.  These raids avoided bloodshed if possible but still degenerated into open warfare from time to time.

Religion at the time was polytheistic centered on sacred objects and local Gods.  Even at this time, however, the tribes already had a yearly pilgrimage to Mecca to venerate the kaaba which contained 360 idols, one for each day of the year.  Even Allah was already installed as the head of the pantheon of Gods.  The Christian and Jewish faiths too existed in the region.

Muhammad lived from c570-632 and was an orphan who grew up to become a business manager for caravans.  It wasn’t until 610 that the angel Gabriel called to him in what has come to be known as the Night of Power.  Muhammad denied Gabriel twice but on the third time he understood and complied with Gabriel’s requests.  Afterwards he thought himself insane but his wife reassured him and believed him and she is said to be the first convert to Islam.

For 22 years Muhammad received the revelation of God and all that he said was first carried by oral history and then written down in the form of the Quran as we know it today.  At the time, what Muhammad had to say was distinctly unpopular.  He stood up against the polytheism and avarice of the times and advocated for a complete revolution of society.

In particular, he fell afoul of the Meccans themselves.  They profited greatly from the influx of pilgrims each year and Muhammad stated quite clearly that these people should not be used as a vehicle to line the city’s pockets.  As a consequence, the Meccans starved Muhammad out of town and bankrupted him but not before Gabriel came to Muhammad with a mystical steed.  Together they traveled to Jerusalem and then to heaven where the prophets and Allah himself instructed Muhammad on how the faithful should pray five times a day.  This event of revelation is known as the Night Journey and occurred in 621.

Bankrupt or not, in 622 Muhammad is invited to Medina to act as an arbiter in a dispute.  Muhammad and his people travel to Medina and there start the first Muslim community.  This event is known as the hijra or migration and marks the official beginning of the Muslim faith.

Having established himself in Medina, Muhammad begins to move militarily against Mecca.  In 624 the Battle of Badr occurs and the Muslims rout the Meccans but the victory is only temporarily as in 625 at the Battle of Uhud the Muslims are defeated and Muhammad is wounded.  Resolution is not reached until 627 at the Battle of the Ditch at which the Muslims fend off the Meccans and come to an uneasy truce.

During this time Jewish and Christian faiths are welcome in Medina and each person need only pay a small tax.  However at the Battle of the Ditch the Jewish population is seen to side with the Meccans and Muhammad has them slaughtered for their treason.

The truce between the two great cities carries on until 630 when some skirmishes between neighbors escalate and eventually Muhammad conquers Mecca entirely.  He is magnanimous in victory, however, and Mecca is incorporated into the Muslim community and Islamic law.  By 632 at Muhammad’s death, the entire Arabian peninsula is united under the Muslim faith.

Terms:

jahiliyaa – Term for pre-Muslim society in the Middle East.  Also used to describe the decadence of the current age.


Series Guide

IslamView back-to-back on the YouTube Playlist
Lecture 1– Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow
Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam
Lecture 3 – Muhammad-Prophet and Statesman
Lecture 4 – God’s Word-The Quranic Worldview
Lecture 5 – The Muslim Community-Faith and Politics
Lecture 6 – Paths to God-Islamic Law and Mysticism
Lecture 7 – Islamic Revivalism-Renewal and Reform
Lecture 8 – The Contemporary Resurgence of Islam
Lecture 9 – Islam at the Crossroads
Lecture 10 – Women and Change in Islam
Lecture 11 – Islam in the West
Lecture 12 – The Future of Islam

24 Comments

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24 responses to “World Religions: Islam – Lecture 3 – Muhammad as Prophet and Statesman

  1. Quran (8:12) – “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads and strike off every fingertip of them” No reasonable person would interpret this to mean a spiritual struggle.

    • Not here to argue but as a Christian I don’t really think you have any room to talk. Your founding document is full of violence. I really don’t think you want to play the out of context quote game because you’ll lose. It’s all in the interpretation and the application of the words. There are plenty of terrorist Christians who use the Bible as their justification. So don’t judge all Muslims by the Muslims that make the news.

      • 1. I’m not judging Muslims, they are people who follow Islam. Blinded and programmed with scripted prayers repeated throughout the day. Their religion is an ANTI based religion. It is based on a doctrine that is strictly against all others. No God but Allah. No religion but Islam. Islam is aggressive. Islam is not tolerant. Islam is bound doctrine of the Quran to make war with all infidels until the entire world submits or dies.
        Just compare Muhammad to Jesus Christ.
        Muhammad killed thousands in unprovoked agression.
        Jesus never harmed anyone.

      • Hrm. You say (1) but I don’t see a (2). Any rate…

        For a Christian to call another faith as ‘blinded and programmed’ is pretty hilarious to me. Come on, that’s the heart of religion and Christianity is great at that too.

        Christianity spends a lot of time converting people too, so you don’t get off on that account either.

        As for Muhammad vs JC, I’ll use your word from another comment: Sanitized. Early Christians got to pick and choose what went into their Bible so of course it’s going to be all happy and positive.

        Any rate, I don’t really care about this argument except to say that you’re doing the standard Christian thing of judging other people without really knowing what it is they believe. I’m not going to sit here and pick apart your religious text and point out all the evil and violence in it. It’s easy to stand on the outside of something and make judgments and make sweeping comments and take things out of context.

      • My ex-muslim friends would disagree.

      • Review this.
        “Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus ” by Nabeel Qureshi

      • You may want to check these out too.
        I haven’t read them yet, but they are on my list. Here’s a review that contrasts Collin’s book. BTW. I did confuse Collin’s with Meyer, who quotes Collins.
        Collin’s book is “The Language of God”.
        Anyhow,..here’s the review.

        “There happen to be multiple huge “gaps” that there is simply no way for blind forces of nature to bring into existence without God’s help. It is not a “fallacy” to point out these huge gaps. For example, it has recently been calculated that the absolute minimum size of DNA required for the simplest life forms is roughly 180,000 base pairs. And without God, supposedly dead chemicals just happened to randomly arrange themselves into the correct sequence? This is a major huge gap, and it simply points straight to God.”

        “If you are looking for serious, hard science to back up your belief in God, I recommend that you read two books that made lifelong atheist Antony Flew recently convert to Deism. The two books are:”

        “The Wonder of the World” by Roy Varghese.

        “The Hidden Face of God” by Gerald Schroeder

      • Rome was sacked by Muslims in 846 AD during the great conquests of Islam after the time of Mohammed.

        During the 8th and 9th centuries, the Muslim Arabs (then called Saracens in Europe) were rapaciously invading Christendom through Southern Italy which they succeeded in conquering by fire, murder, rapine and the sword. Sailing from newly acquired bases in North Africa which they had just stolen from the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire, the had conquered Sicily and were now bent upon seizing the rest of the peninsula.

        They had earlier been rebuffed in France in 732 by King Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, but they had got as far as Tours in Nothern France. King Charles was the first to halt their seemingly inexorable advance. Thereafter they retired to Spain and parts of Southern France and settled. They retained their hold on what had once been Catholic Visigothic Spain for the next 800 years! They were not finally ejected from Christian Spain until 1491 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

        Under Pope Paschal I (817-824), the relics of the holy martyrs were concealed in the walls of the city of Rome. When Rome was sacked, Paschal’s careful precautions did not prevent the wholesale spoliation and robbery of Basilica of Saint Peter itself, nor, indeed, of San Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul’s outside the Walls), because they both lay outside the walls of the city of Rome.

        Later, a second wall was constructed on the other side of the Tiber from the main city area. It was constructed by order of Pope Leo IV and so this enclosure was called the Leonine City.

        The Islamic conquest and domination of Sicily, as well as parts of southern Italy began in the 7th century after the foundation of Islam and the attempt by the Muslim leaders to conquer the world.

        By Koranic tradition, Islam makes its attempts to re-conquer the world in the 7th or 8th decade of every century and does not stop until it is halted by force. When stopped it generally lies low until the 7th or 8th decade of the next century when it then makes another attempt at world domination.

        How, then, can it call itself a religion of peace? It does so because it means by peace the eventual peace that will, it says, be the consequence of the conquest of the world for Islam. In the meantime, however, it is war.

        (Retrieved from, http://www.romanchristiandom.blogspot.com)

        The Battle of Tours France is said to be the most important battle ever won for the sake of civilization

      • Well I encourage them to comment directly. Your opinions are just third-person hearsay at this point.

      • Rome was sacked by Muslims in 846 AD during the great conquests of Islam after the time of Mohammed.

        During the 8th and 9th centuries, the Muslim Arabs (then called Saracens in Europe) were rapaciously invading Christendom through Southern Italy which they succeeded in conquering by fire, murder, rapine and the sword. Sailing from newly acquired bases in North Africa which they had just stolen from the Christians of the Eastern Roman Empire, the had conquered Sicily and were now bent upon seizing the rest of the peninsula.

        They had earlier been rebuffed in France in 732 by King Charles Martel, the grandfather of Charlemagne, but they had got as far as Tours in Nothern France. King Charles was the first to halt their seemingly inexorable advance. Thereafter they retired to Spain and parts of Southern France and settled. They retained their hold on what had once been Catholic Visigothic Spain for the next 800 years! They were not finally ejected from Christian Spain until 1491 by Queen Isabella and King Ferdinand.

        Under Pope Paschal I (817-824), the relics of the holy martyrs were concealed in the walls of the city of Rome. When Rome was sacked, Paschal’s careful precautions did not prevent the wholesale spoliation and robbery of Basilica of Saint Peter itself, nor, indeed, of San Paolo fuori le Mura (St Paul’s outside the Walls), because they both lay outside the walls of the city of Rome.

        Later, a second wall was constructed on the other side of the Tiber from the main city area. It was constructed by order of Pope Leo IV and so this enclosure was called the Leonine City.

        The Islamic conquest and domination of Sicily, as well as parts of southern Italy began in the 7th century after the foundation of Islam and the attempt by the Muslim leaders to conquer the world.

        By Koranic tradition, Islam makes its attempts to re-conquer the world in the 7th or 8th decade of every century and does not stop until it is halted by force. When stopped it generally lies low until the 7th or 8th decade of the next century when it then makes another attempt at world domination.

        How, then, can it call itself a religion of peace? It does so because it means by peace the eventual peace that will, it says, be the consequence of the conquest of the world for Islam. In the meantime, however, it is war.

        (Retrieved from, http://www.romanchristiandom.blogspot.com)

        The Battle of Tours France is said to be the most important battle ever won for the sake of civilization

      • I’m not really here to debate this point, but your response seems to be the basic equivalent of “well, they do it too!”

  2. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 1 – Islam Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow | The Tattered Thread

  3. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 2 – The Five Pillars of Islam | The Tattered Thread

  4. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 4 – God’s Word: The Quranic Worldview | The Tattered Thread

  5. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 6: Paths to God – Islamic Law and Mysticism | The Tattered Thread

  6. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 7: Islamic Revivalism – Renewal and Reform | The Tattered Thread

  7. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 8: Contemporary Resurgence of Islam | The Tattered Thread

  8. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 9: Islam at the Crossroads | The Tattered Thread

  9. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 10: Women and Change in Islam | The Tattered Thread

  10. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 11: Islam in the West | The Tattered Thread

  11. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 12: The Future of Islam | The Tattered Thread

  12. Pingback: World Religions: Islam – Lecture 5: The Muslim Community – Faith and Politics | The Tattered Thread

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