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In the Name of God بسم الله


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    Jaabir reacted to Qa'im for a blog entry, Spread by the Sword?   
    بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم
                Not only is Islam the second-largest religion in the world, but it is the world’s fastest growing religion. With globalization and the influx of Muslim immigration to the West, many people are reluctantly meeting Muslims for the first time. Fear of the unknown is common, but that fear is constantly perpetuated by images of violence in the Muslim world. As a visible minority with little political leverage, the Muslim community is an easy target for xenophobes, warmongers, and nationalists. The Muslim world is the needed bogeyman for the military-industrial complex, private security companies, and isolationist politicians to thrive. Rather than trying to understand the complex imperial and economic variables that cause violence in the Muslim world, it is both simpler and more cunning to resort to generalized arguments about Islam. This view, however, overlooks the many scientific and philosophical contributions Muslims have made to Western civilization. More importantly, it distorts the reality of the Muslim civilization’s mostly-tolerant history. The centuries-old narrative that Islam was “spread by the sword” is still popular today, and it causes Muslims living in the West to be looked at as a suspicious Trojan horse waiting to Islamize the world. It is therefore necessary for us to deconstruct this worldview. This paper will briefly explore the rise and expansion of Islam, and demonstrate that tolerance and plurality were founding principles of Islamic ethics.
                Since the early days of the Prophet Muhammad’s ministry, Islam’s relationship with non-Muslim communities has been notable. Shortly after the Muslim migration to Medina (then known as Yathrib) in 622 CE, the Prophet drafted the Constitution of Medina. This charter put an end to tribal infighting in Medina, created a new judicial system, guaranteed the mutual protection of Muslims and non-Muslims, and established a new “Community of Believers (mu’mineen)”. (Gil, 2004, pp. 21) This community would include the Jewish tribes of Medina, while still recognizing their distinct identity and laws. Although Bernard Lewis claims that the Constitution of Medina was a unilateral proclamation by Muhammad, (Lewis, 1993, pp. 22) Muslim sources generally referred to it as a pact between the Muslims and the Jews following the two pledges at `Aqaba. Furthermore, Wellhausen, a German orientalist, regarded this charter to be a multilateral agreement negotiated between all of the involved groups. (Gil, 2004, pp. 22)
                The Prophet Muhammad also ratified writs of protection to other communities. The Ashtiname of Muhammad, which was written by `Ali b. Abi Talib upon the commission of Muhammad, granted privileges to the Christian monks of St. Catherine’s Monastery in Egypt. (Ratliff, 2012, pp. 63) The document guarantees that Christians are not to be overtaxed, plundered, disturbed, or coerced into marriages. (Morrow, 2013) These covenants demonstrate that the Prophet pursued a peaceful and tolerant coexistence with other communities, and made his followers accountable to ethical principles of justice.            
    The Prophet Muhammad very plainly stressed the equality of all people, regardless of tribe, colour, class, or ethnicity. While rights differed among subgroups of society, the Islamic civilization held no concept of the natural subordination of individuals or groups. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127) Conversion to Islam only required a simple declaration of faith, while becoming a member of the ancient Greek polity was only possible for Greek male property owners. (Hamid, 1982, pp. 127)  The egalitarianism of the Quranic message was attractive to many who sought social refuge from the caste system and other forms of subordination. (Eaton, 1992, pp. 117)
    The Caliphate’s medieval conquests, which occurred after the Prophet Muhammad, are the main source of agitation among those suspicious of Muslims. It should be noted that `Ali b. Abi Talib, who is considered the rightful successor to Muhammad by Shia Muslims, refrained from taking part in these conquests, despite being renowned as a great warrior. There should be no doubt that there were incidents that occurred during early expansion that are not in line with the teachings of the Prophet, especially during the ridda wars and the Battle of `Ulays. The Shia Imams consistently held the Caliphate accountable during mistrials and in moments of nepotism; and they struggled to establish social and economic justice in the Muslim world. But, the frame that the Islamic conquests were wholly or mostly negative is a Eurocentric view that does not account for other pieces of the puzzle.
                Many ancient texts document extensive Judeo-Christian support for the Muslim conquests of Byzantium and Persia. Jews in the Levant had expected a redeemer who would deliver them from the Roman occupiers. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3-6) The Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple in 134 CE, outlawed Jews from living within ten miles of Jerusalem, disbanded the Jewish high court, taxed the Jews heavily, and persecuted them for siding with the Persians. This torment ignited a messianic fervour among medieval Jews, leading to a widespread anticipation of a saviour. One of the earliest non-Muslim references to the rise of Islam is the Doctrina Jacobi, a Greek Christian anti-Jewish polemical text written in 634 CE, just two years after the passing of Prophet Muhammad. The text describes “overjoyed” Jews celebrating the Muslim arrival in Byzantium. (Crone, 1977, pp. 3) Moreover, The Secrets of Simon ben Yohai, a Jewish apocalyptic text written between the seventh and eighth centuries CE, tells of the emergence of an Ishmaelite “prophet according to God’s will” who would save the Jewish people from their oppressors. (Crone, 1977, pp. 4-5)
    The Islamic conquest of the Levant would restore Jewish access to Jerusalem and establish a polity that would include Muslims, Christians, and Jews alike. The Pact of Umar II, a writ of protection extended by `Umar b. `Abd al-`Aziz in the seventh century, promised safety and the right to worship to Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians in exchange for the payment of the poll tax (jizya). (Berger, 2006, pp. 88) While some orientalists have criticized the Pact’s prohibition on riding horses, Muslim clothing and building high structures, these stipulations may have been placed to prevent insurrections against Muslim garrisons, rather than to humiliate or subordinate non-Muslims.
                The Muslim treatment of non-Muslims was similarly commended by Near Eastern Christians. John bar Penkaye, an East Syriac Nestorian writer of the late seventh century, praised the Muslim overthrow of the Sassanid dynasty. In his Summary of World History, he writes, “We should not think of the advent [of the children of Hagar] as something ordinary, but as due to divine working. Before calling them, [God] had prepared them beforehand to hold Christians in honour, thus they also had a special commandment from God concerning our monastic station, that they should hold it in honour … God put victory in their hands.” (Pearse) This early Christian account documents the just conduct of Muslim rulers, likening it to divine intervention. Furthermore, after the Byzantines had seized control of Egypt and put the Coptic Patriarch Benjamin I of Alexandria into exile, the Muslim conquerors restored Benjamin I’s authority and brought order to the affairs of the Coptic Church.
    Many cultures were drawn to Islam’s magnetic social appeal. Indonesia, which is the country with the highest population of Muslims, encountered Arab merchants in the thirteenth century. Along with the arrival of Muslim commercialism, Islamic stories and symbols were introduced to the population through traditional wayang puppet shows. (Hamish, 2011, pp. 46-51) In the Indian subcontinent, Islam provided social mobility to lower castes, giving people equal rights and freeing them from total subservience to the Brahmans. The transformative power of Sufism was also attractive to many Hindus who sought ascetic, mystical brotherhoods. (Lapidus, 1988, pp. 363) Sufi and Shia saints continue to be revered by Hindu and Sikh poets in India.
    Although the Muslim empires had a tumultuous relationship with European Christians over the centuries, sizable Christian and Jewish communities with ancient origins continued to thrive in the Muslim world. Moorish and Ottoman confrontations with Christendom have propelled the misconception that Islam was spread by the sword. The fact is, however, that the conversion of the Near East to Islam occurred very gradually. By 800 CE, only 18% of Iraq’s population was Muslim. (Brown, 2016) Furthermore, Egypt, Spain, and the Levant did not attain a Muslim majority until the eleventh century. (Brown 2016) This means that the Muslims were a minority in the heartlands of their own civilization for hundreds of years. While poll taxes and other social pressures certainly promoted conversion to Islam, ancient churches, synagogues, temples, and other relics were maintained. Judeo-Christian populations even had rights to printing presses and European books in the Ottoman Empire – a privilege rarely granted to Muslims. (Brown, 2016) 14% of the Middle East remained Christian by 1910, with significant populations in Syria, Palestine and Egypt. (Brown, 2016)
    On the other hand, Christendom had a relatively poor record with minorities. Although Iberia was mostly Muslim in the fifteenth century, all Muslims were expelled or forced to convert to Christianity in 1526. (Brown, 2016) In 1609, 3-4% of Spain’s population consisted of Christian descendants of Muslims, who were also expelled under King Philip the Third. Anti-Jewish pogroms were also common in pre and post-Enlightenment European history. While there are many ancient Christian communities in the Muslim world, there are practically no ancient Muslim communities in the Christian world, despite Islam’s long history in Spain, Portugal, Sicily, and Eastern Europe.
                In recent decades, the Muslim world’s relationship with its non-Muslim minority communities has suffered. Colonialism, neo-imperialism, military dictatorships, and poor economies have sometimes caused the alienation and scapegoating of ethnic and religious minorities in the Muslim world. In June 2014, the so-called Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), which rose out of the destabilization of Iraq and Syria, routed Christians out of Mosul. This genocide marked the end of over a thousand years of continuous Muslim-Christian coexistence in the region. While ISIL’s actions are a black mark on modern Islamic history, ISIL’s main military and ideological opponents are other Muslims in the region and around the world. This paper demonstrates that normative Islam seeks unity under common ethical principles. It is vital for Muslims to revive an equitable, pluralistic and tolerant worldview, not just because diversity is strength, but because it is the ethos of our civilization.           
    Berger, Julia Phillips., and Sue Parker. Gerson. Teaching Jewish History. Springfield, NJ: A.R.E. Pub., 2006. Print.
    Pearse, John Bar Penkaye, Summary of World History (Rish Melle) (2010). N.p., n.d. Web. 9 July 2016.
    Crone, Patricia, and Michael Cook. Hagarism: The Making of the Islamic World. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1977. Print.
    Http://www.youtube.com/channel/UC4L23Z_agh1qeV_odQfV6Vg. "Dr. Jonathan AC Brown - The Message of Peace Spread by the Sword - UMaine IAW 2016." YouTube. YouTube, 2016. Web. 9 July 2016.
    Eaton, Richard Maxwell. The Rise of Islam and the Bengal Frontier, 1204-1760. Berkeley: U of California, 1993. Print.
    Gil, Moshe, and David Strassler. Jews in Islamic Countries in the Middle Ages. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Print.
    Harnish, David D., and Anne K. Rasmussen. Divine Inspirations: Music and Islam in Indonesia. New York: Oxford UP, 2011. Print.
    Lapidus, Ira M. A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 1988. Print
    Lewis, Bernard. The Arabs in History. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1993. Print.
    Morrow, John A. The Covenants of the Prophet Muhammad with the Christians of the World. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.
    Ratliff, Brandie, and Helen C. Evans. Byzantium and Islam: Age of Transition, 7th-9th Century. New York, NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art, 2012. Print.
    ʻInāyat, Ḥamīd. Modern Islamic Political Thought. Austin: U of Texas, 1982. Print.
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    Jaabir reacted to Islamic Salvation for a blog entry, Abu Amra al-Ansari - A Forgotten Man Pt. I   
    Abu Amra al-Ansari - A Forgotten Man in Early Shi`ism
    قلت لأبي عبد الله عليه السلام: ارتد الناس إلا ثلاثة: أبو ذر، و سلمان، و المقداد؟ قال: فقال أبو عبد الله عليه السلام: فأين ... أبو عمرة الأنصاري؟
    I said to Abi Abdillah عليه السلام: all the people turned back except for three - Abu Dhar, Salman and Miqdad? Abu Abdillah عليه السلام said: so where is … Abu Amra al-Ansari?
    Who was Abu Amra?
    There exists Ikthilaf over the real name of Abu Amra among the scholars but it is most likely Bashir. The problem is compounded when he is confused in the sources for his father Amr b. Mihsan.
    al-Kalbi gives it as follows [See: Nasab Ma`ad wa al-Yaman al-Kabir]
    ابو عمرة بشير بن عمرو بن مِحصن بن عَمرو بن عَتِيك بن عمرو بن مَبْذول، واسمه عامر بن مالك بن النجار بن ثعلبة بن عمرو بن الخزرج الأَنصاري
    Abu Amra Bashir b. Amr b. Mihsan b. Amr b. Atik b. Amr b. Mabdhul - and his i.e. Mabdhul’s name was A`mir - b. Malik b. al-Najjar b. Tha`laba b. Amr b. al-Khazraj al-Ansari.
    This means he was from the Ansar, helpers who welcomed the prophet in Madina, specifically, from the Amr b. Mabdhul of the Banu al-Najjar who were Khazraji.
    Abu Nuaym says [See: Ma`rifat al-Sahaba]:
    شهد بدرًا وأُحدًا والمشاهد
    He witnessed Badr, Uhud and the rest of the battles.  
    He was a very early convert to Islam and participated in all the battles which gives him a station that we cannot fathom. He has a few narrations from the prophet recorded in the books of Hadith.
    The Banu Najjar Connection
    The Muslim sources on genealogy assert that Ali and Muhammad’s great grandmother, the mother of Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim, was Salma bint Amr from the clan of Banu Najjar of the Khazraj. Abd al-Muttalib spent his childhood with his mother in Madina, before he was claimed by his uncle Muttalib and brought to Makka after the death of his father Hashim.
    This explains why the Banu Hashim always saw the Banu Najjar of the Khazraj as their Akhwal [maternal uncles].
    Abd al-Muttalib said in verse [See: Ta`rikh al-Tabari]
    أبلغ بني النجار إن جئتهم ... أني منهم وابنهم والخميس
    Tell the Bani al-Najjar if you reach them … That I am one of them, their son and of their company
    And also:
    يا طول ليلي لأحزاني وأشغالي ... هل من رسول إلى النجار أخوالي
    O how long is my night due to my sorrows and worries … Would someone serve as a messenger to my maternal uncles (the Bani) Najjar
    Another piece of evidence is that most accounts regarding the circumstances preceding the death of the prophet’s father, Abdallah, place his final illness in Madina, where he is said to have stayed with his maternal uncles, the Banu Adiyy b. al-Najjar, among whom he eventually died and was buried
    This pre-existing relation helps explain why this particular branch of the Khazraj were overly represented in the move of the prophet from Makka to Madina. A move which gave him safety when all other doors were closed.
    As`ad b. Zurara of the Bani Najjar was critical to the prophet’s migration to Madina. He was the first to accept Islam from among the inhabitants of Yathrib. This happened when he and a small group of five others [all from Khazraj, including another member of the Bani Najjar] happened to meet the prophet when they went to seek settlement for a dispute from the Qurayshi elders [specifically Utba b. Rabi`a]. They returned next year in what is called the first pledge of Aqaba [delegation of the inhabitants of Yathrib that pledged their support to Muhammad prior to the Hijra].
    In the accounts of the first pledge of Aqaba, 10 of the 12 men listed were from the Khazraj and 3 of those were from the Banu al-Najjar. Of the 70 or so men and 2 women who pledged their allegiance to Muhammad during the second meeting of Aqaba, 62 men and one woman were from the Khazraj and 12 of these were of the Banu al-Najjar.
    The prophet initially resided with them when he emigrated to Madina [specifically with Abi Ayyub al-Ansari who was of the Banu Najjar], similarly, his Masjid and later homes were built in the Najjari quarter.
    No surprise then that the prophet said [See: Sahih al-Bukhari]:
    خير دور الأنصار بنو النجار
    The best of the Ansari homes [in terms of genealogical honour] are those of the Banu Najjar.
    It is my thesis that Abu Amra being from the Najjar would have added reason to support Ali because there was a familial relation between them. But this is not the main reason why most of the Ansar placed their hope in Ali.
    How do we explain Ansari support? There is no doubt that the major driving force behind it was the coalescing of grievance felt by the Ansar as a result of the consolidation of the Qurayshi monopoly. They saw in the sympathetic figure of Ali [who had also been sidelined by the Qurashis] someone who could redress that balance.
    A Witness at Ghadir
    وفي اسد الغابة لابن الاثير روى بسنده عن الاصبغ بن نباتة قال: نشد علي (ع) الناس في الرحبة: من سمع النبي (ص) يوم غدير خم ما قال الا قام، ولايقوم الا من سمع رسول اللّه (ص) يقول، فقام بضعة عشر رجلا فيهم ابو ايوب الانصاري، وابو عمرة بن عمرو بن محصن ... فقالوا: نشهد انا سمعنا رسول اللّه (ص) يقول: الا ان اللّه عزوجل وليي، وانا ولي المؤمنين، الا فمن كنت مولاه فعلي مولاه، اللهم وال من والاه، وعاد من عاداه، واحب من احبه، وابغض من ابغضه، واعن من اعانه
    Ibn Athir reports in Usd al-Ghaba via his chain to al-Asbagh b. Nabata who said: Ali عليه السلام called out to the people in al-Rahba: whoever heard what the prophet صلى الله عليه واله وسلم said on the day of Ghadir should stand, no one should stand except if he heard the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه واله وسلم directly. More than ten men stood up among them Abu Ayyub al-Ansari and Abu Amra b. Amr b. Mihsan … they said: we bear witness that we heard the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه واله وسلم saying: Verily Allah Mighty and Majestic is my master, and I am the master of the believers, whomsoever’s master I am then Ali is also his master, O Allah be a guardian to the one who takes him as a guardian, and be an enemy to the one who makes him an enemy, and love the one who loves him and hate the one who hates him and aid the one who comes to his aid.
    The Secret Bay`a
    We are told that the first Bay`a [pledge of allegiance] to Ali was given at Abu Amra’s home by a few of the closest Ashab. Kufan tradition maintains that it was al-Ashtar who extended his hands first. This happened, in one of the greatest ironies of history, on Friday the 18th of Dhul Hijja 35 AH. It was followed by the public pledge at the Masjid the next day.
    The fact that he got this private Bay`a from the Ansari warriors of the Bani Najjar [who were the core of the early Muslim armies] is significant. Ansari support in Madina was critical to nullifying the claims of Talha and Zubayr in that period of paralysis when Madina was over-run by forces from the provinces.
    قال ابن السَّمَرْقَنْدِي: أخبرني العباس بن هشام عَن أبيه قال: بويعَ علي بن أبي طالب بن عَبْد المُطَّلِب بن هاشم بن عَبْد مَنَاف بالمدينة، يوم الجُمعة حين قُتِل عُثْمَان، لاثنتي عشرة ليلة بقيت من ذي الحجة فاستقبلَ المُحرم سنة ستّ وثلاثين وقال غير عباس: وكانت بيعتهُ في دار عمرو بن محصن الأنصاري ثم أحد بني عمرو بن مبذول يوم الجمعة، ثم بويع بيعة العامة من الغد، يوم السبت في مسجد رَسُول اللَّه (ص)
    Ibn al-Samarqandi said: al-Abbas b. Hisham narrated to me from his father that: Ali b. Abi Talib b. Abd al-Muttalib b. Hashim b. Abd Manaf was given the Bay`a in Madina, on Friday, the day Uthman was murdered, twelve nights remaining from the month of Dhul Hijja, the coming Muharram being the new year thirty six [after Hijra]. And someone other than Abbas said: His Bay`a was in the house of Amr b. Mihsan al-Ansari whereupon Bani Amr b. Mabdhul swore fealty on a Friday, then the public oath was on the next day, Saturday, in the Masjid of the messenger of Allah صلى الله عليه واله وسلم  
    ابي المليح قال: لما قتل عثمان، خرج علي الى السوق، وذالك يوم السبت لثماني عشره ليلة خلت من ذى الحجة، فاتبعه الناس وبهشوا في وجهه، فدخل حائط بني عمرو بن مبذول، وقال لأبي عمرة بن عمرو بن محصن: اغلق الباب فجاء الناس فقرعوا الباب فدخلوا ...
    Ibn Mulayh said: when Uthman was killed, Ali came out to the market, and that was on Saturday, eighteen nights having passed from Dhul Hijja, the people followed him and thronged in front of him, so he entered the walled garden of Bani Amr b. Mabdhul and said to Abi Amra b. Amr b. Mihsan: close the door, but the people came and banged on the door and entered … 
    To be continued ...
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