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Thursday, April 14, 2011
some spirity crib notes for my peeps today...
how much do you know about islam? though i grew up in a christian family, we didn't go to church and i barely had an opportunity to understand the bible. so needless to say, my understanding of other religions was pretty much nil. but now that i am in this place of wanting to know god better, i've been cracking books about prophets and religions. deepak chopra wrote three easy-to-read books about the prophets of three major religions: jesus, buddha and muhammad. i just finished muhammad and wanted to share some crib notes...
so muhammad was a regular guy who lived in a city called mecca, a desert city in arabia. he was born in 570. at the time, those who inhabited mecca worshiped little carved idols and profited by selling these idols to other polytheists who stopped in mecca while crossing the desert. mecca was able to survive in the desert b/c of a single well called "zamzam".
muhammad's grandfather, abdel muttalib, owned rights to the well so he was a wealthy and well-respected man. but, like the christians and jews, he believed in one god, an idea that was unaccepted by meccans. christians and jews were not even allowed to step foot within the walls of mecca.
skipping over some of the details, muhammad's super sexy dad, abdullah, died tragically and suddenly just weeks after he got hitched. fortunately, his wife aminah had become preggers on her wedding night. muhammad was born 9 months later with a light in his eyes.
in those days, mecca was a disgustingly dirty, filthy city so rich mommies sent their newborns to live with wet nurses in the desert, so as to escape disease. muhammed was sent off with a loving woman named halimah who cared for him for five years. during this time he is said to have been touched by mysterious sentient beings who opened his heart to god's love. (god and allah are interchangeable.) other spirity things happened to him as a child, too, and a few people were aware that he was god's next great prophet.
so muhammad eventually came back to mecca, aminah sadly died and muhammad was raised by his uncle abu talib. abu talib cared well for him and knew that he was a special boy. muhammad grew up to be a well-respected, honest man. folks turned to him to settle disputes. his reputation was top notch. he married a rich widow named khadijah and had 4 baby girls. he also adopted one slave boy. life was relatively good. but he had to be careful about hiding his true feelings about religion. like his granddaddy, he believed in one god and sought to become closer to him.
so he found a quiet spot in the hills away from mecca. he'd spend all day there, thinking and praying, then returning to his wife and family back in mecca. one night he camped out in a cave and was awoken by the angel gabriel who ordered him to "recite". muhammad freaked out. he was like - WTF??? am i losing my mind? this is scary! i know i asked god to talk to me but this is CRAZY!!!! so he ran like a bat out of hell and practically threw himself off a nearby cliff when suddenly he looked around and saw gabriel's light fill the sky. he decided to trust the angel and hear him out.
so basically, gabriel told him to repeat whatever he heard. muhammad had never been much of an orator, okay he basically sucked at poetry and public speaking to the point his tribe mates thought something was wrong with him. but muhammad submitted to god's wishes and began channeling beautiful messages which would eventually inspire droves of idol-worshipping arabs to turn to allah.
when muhammad channeled god, he was visibly changed. he'd shake and sweat and his voice sounded totally different. followers knew that this was no joke and passionately worked to convert idol worshippers to this new religion called "islam", which means "acceptance". those who surrendered to allah called themselves "muslims".
the muslims were eventually forced out of mecca by the polytheistic tribes. there had been bloody disagreements between the meccan tribes and the muslims and god told muhammed to get the hell out of dodge. so they went to medina, a city across the desert run by several jewish tribes. the jews liked the fact that these muslims worshipped one god so they let them stay. but the jews didn't understand the way muslim women dressed and one day a merchant in the market ripped off a muslim's woman's robes, exposing her naked body. she freaked out. her husband freaked out. he killed the merchant, then was swarmed by market-goers and killed. not cool. the islamic faith base was growing, and muhammad was told by god it was time to kick the jews to the curb.
this was when people of other monotheistic religions started to think muhammad wasn't such a nice guy. money and food were tough to come by in the desert, so it was pretty normal for tribes to send out little posses to attack merchant caravans and rip them off. one day, ali, muhammad's right hand man, went out and raided a meccan caravan and the scheme ended up bloody. the meccans were pissed. battles ensued.
muhammad, who channeled god several times a day, would received messages on how to win these battles and he really cleaned up. at one point, he was defending medina beautifully until the one tribe of jews left in the city decided to let the meccans in through their corner of town. the plot failed and the muslims were rip shit. they wanted heads to roll - and that's what happened. muhammad supported the decision to behead every jewish man and sell the women and children into slavery. the jews were horrified b/c just a few years earlier they had provided the muslims with asylum. one by one their own tribes were forced out of their homes and then finally he gave his thumbs up basically to genocide.
muhammad's prophetic messages and military might spread far and wide and thousands converted to islam. though muhammad's power was extraordinary, so was his humility. he considered himself "a man among men". he credited allah for all of his successes and wisdom and blamed himself for pain caused to others. he knew he was not perfect and made mistakes along the way.
at the time people were lost. they had worshipped silly idols for so long that when a prophet of god came along to show them the way they needed explicit instruction on how to live. so the muslims lived by every channeled word. when muhammad died in 632, his closest followers, including his youngest wife, created guidelines for how to handle just about any scenario that exists in life - from taxes to domestic disputes. and it's all laid out in the koran.
what's important to know is that muslims have a lot of books in their backpacks. the old testament, the torah and the koran. muslims believe in the same god that christians and jews do. they know that jesus was a great prophet. they love moses. abraham is their father, too. but they believe that muhammad was a prophet of god's word. (which he was, duh.) he introduced the arab world to god. allah. this was done at a time when people could barely survive. some pretty nasty things had to happen in order to show people the light. had muhammad not encouraged his people to fight, his message would have been extinguished and the arabs would have not had the opportunity to know a peaceful and loving god. (compare this to the christian crusades.)
war is not part of the islamic message, though extremists have muddied the religion's reputation through terrorism. but every religion has its whack jobs. hello? can you say, "inquisition?" catholics took great pleasure in racking heretics and snickered while their bodies burned at the stake. christians can be psychos, too! anyway back to the point, war was a necessity of the time. and if you don't listen to muhammad's spiritual message, the words beyond the basic survival, you are missing out on something truly beautiful. there is a branch of islam called sufi. sufism capsulises the purest and most loving part of muhammad's work, using his teachings on the loving road to enlightenment. think of this when you think of islam and muhammad's legacy.
peace... no really, peace.