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The military strategist named Muhammad

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 07:37 PM PDT

And this was when religion came in to undertake that task. Basically they had to adopt the concept of the Creator and that this Creator is also the maker and bringer of laws. Hence God's laws would bind humankind to a certain code of conduct and a set of moral laws. And you breach this code of conduct and moral laws at your own peril. The punishment could be penance or banishment, or worse, death.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

If you go around telling people that God spoke to you and that you are His messenger and no one listens to you, you are a lunatic. If you go around telling people that God spoke to you and that you are His messenger and millions listen to you, you are a prophet. Hence your credibility would depend on how many people listen to you. If no one listens to you, you are mad. If many listen to you, you are special.

Now, before you jump on me and accuse me of saying that the Prophets were actually lunatics, hold your horses and read on till the end. Many things that were said and done and which people believed back in the old days would appear crazy by today's standards. But back in the old days they had different value systems and people of those days did what was considered norm back then. Only by today's standards would you view all these as sheer lunacy.

The early religions of the hunter-gatherers were mainly animated and the belief in spirits. They believed that everything had a spirit -- trees, hills, rivers, the sun, the moon, animals, etc. Hence, as a sort of 'insurance', they prayed to these spirits.

Before they cut the corn they prayed to the corn spirit for permission to cut the corn lest the spirit in that corn got angry and punished them. Before they climbed a tree they prayed to the spirit of the tree lest they anger the spirit in the tree and they fall down and hurt themselves or die. Before they fished they prayed to the spirit of the lake or river lest they anger the spirit and fall into the water and drown. And so on.

Hence the early concept of religion was that of a bad, mischievous, angry, jealous, vengeful, uncompassionate, possessive, etc., spirit that lived in everything that the eye could see. And you had to please, bribe, pacify, etc., this spirit lest it punishes you for being inconsiderate in not seeking permission before doing something. And you did this with prayer and sacrifice (both animal and human -- as well as, for example, burning some corn as sacrifice before eating it).

If you got sick it is because you angered a spirit. If your catch is bad it is because you angered a spirit. Anything bad at all that happens is the revenge of an angry spirit. So you need to appease this spirit.

That was basically what religion was all about in the early days of the hunter-gatherers. There was no concept of morality or of the existence of a Creator. No one worried about morality or contemplated issues such as who created us and why are we here and whatnot. All that came much, much later.

Eventually, people settled down (the evolution from hunter-gatherers to settlers that I was talking about in my earlier articles) and began to live as a community within a community. So now they needed laws to govern the community.

They did not have an elected government or a police force or a set of laws or law courts, etc. So how do they draw up a set of guidelines to govern how people treated each other? How do they enforce peace and ensure security? How are you going to be protected?

Many things that hunter-gatherers did not have to worry about the settlers now needed to address. In the old days you just killed and ate whatever you killed (and sometimes you killed each other and ate them as well). Now there needs to be certain respect shown to each other. For example you can no longer just kill someone and cook him for dinner and take his woman as your mate.

Morality, something that never used to exist, now needed to be clearly defined. What is moral and what is immoral? And to define morality you needed to first define conscience. Your moral compass would need to be defined by what we call conscience. You have to begin drawing the boundary between right and wrong.

But who is going to be the power that determines these new standards? There was no elected government to undertake this task. The community was self-governing. But someone within that community needed to spell out what is right and what is wrong and hence what are the boundaries of morality-immorality.

And this was when religion came in to undertake that task. Basically they had to adopt the concept of the Creator and that this Creator is also the maker and bringer of laws. Hence God's laws would bind humankind to a certain code of conduct and a set of moral laws. And you breach this code of conduct and moral laws at your own peril. The punishment could be penance or banishment, or worse, death.

So early religions had to be strict. Religion maintained law and order within the community. They maintained the peace and security. They severely punished offenders and transgressors. And that is why religion is all about rules and regulations. It was what kept you safe and alive.

However, to bind people to the dictates of religion you must first bind people to the doctrine of that religion. And that is why religion is steeped in dogma. You must accept and believe that there is a power that created you and that this power can punish and reward you depending on whether you are a good person or bad person. Once you accept that doctrine you can then accept and follow the dictates of that religion. You become good because it is beneficial to be good and you avoid being bad because it is unrewarding to be bad -- the carrot and the stick concept.

Eventually, humankind became more sophisticated as it progressed and primitive religions were no longer acceptable. So the prophets of the new religions had to impress a sceptical population that he was truly the prophet of God.

For example, back in the days of the Pharaoh, magic was what awed the people. The Pharaoh declared that he was god and he had a team of magicians who could turn a stick into a snake to prove it. Moses too was forced to use magic to turn his stick into a snake and which swallowed the snakes of the Pharaoh's magicians. Even the Pharaoh's magicians were awed.

Moses also parted the Red Sea to allow his people to escape from Egypt. No one would deny that Moses was legitimate with the powerful magic that he performed.

During the time of Jesus, people were awed by miracles. In fact, magic was by then seen as the devil's work (you would get put to death for performing magic). So Jesus had to perform all sorts of miracles to prove his legitimacy. (And that is why the miracle of the Resurrection of Jesus is so crucial to Christianity).

During the time of Muhammad, the people were awed by poetry plus of people who had a superb memory and could recite poetry from memory. Poets who could memorise and recite poetry were the superstars of that time and much respected (plus women would swoon and fall in love with them).  

So Muhammad had to recite 'poetry', so to speak, as his 'miracle'. And that is why the verses from the Qur'an are all oral (Qur'an derives from the word recite) and not written (until later) and poetic as well. And the most respected people of that time were those who could memorise and recite the Qur'an. And the Qur'an is read with melody and the end of each verse rhymes with the one before it.

It is said that all Muhammad had to do was to recite verses from the Qur'an and even those who had come to kill him fell down in prostration when they heard the verses. Maybe the Arabs were just suckers for a good poetic verse but whatever it was they were awed when they heard the recitals.

And that, Muslims believe, is the miracle of Muhammad.

Now, another very important point about Arabia of that time, other than being awed by poetry and verses, was that the Arabs were warring desert tribes. They attacked one another, killed one another, robbed one another, kidnapped the other tribes' women and children, and whatnot. It was basically a test of your manhood to raid and fight the other tribes. It was the same culture as the Vikings and many people of that time. It was, in fact, a noble pastime or occupation back in the pre-Crusade era.

One task ahead of Muhammad was to unite these people, an impossible people to unite even up to this present day (as you may all be aware). So how to unite the hundreds of Arab tribes who for centuries had been fighting and killing each other?

The only way would be religion. The Arabs had no respect for anything or anyone except when it comes to religion. They will fight each other and kill each other until they entered the 'holy land' of Mekah. Then they will lay down their arms and not harm even a fly. Hence if you can control Mekah you can control the Arabs.

And that, I believe, is why Muhammad needed to conquer Mekah. He would never be able to unite and control the Arabs until he first controlled Mekah. And I believe that was why he needed to invade Mekah with an army of 10,000 a year before he died.

Hence it was a political strategy. First sabotage Mekah's economy. Then conquer Mekah militarily. Then introduce Islam to Mekah. And then unite the Arabs under the new religion of Mekah.

I would say it was a brilliant strategy -- until after Muhammad died and Islam broke up into many sects and which, again, disunited the Arabs until today.

Muhammad must be weeping seeing this Arab-Muslim disunity from wherever he is currently resting.


The convert-or-die fallacy

Posted: 16 Jul 2013 04:32 PM PDT

Most people view Muhammad as a Prophet or man of religion. However, we must not forget that long before Muhammad became a Man of God he was a successful businessman. Hence he knew the power of commerce. And to defeat Mekah you must first undermine its economy.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

In yesterday's article, 'Evolution of the species', many readers had the impression that I was propagating Darwinism. That happens quite a lot. Readers would just look at the heading of the article or read just the first few paragraphs and then jump to a conclusion as to what I am talking about (and then start posting comments).

In fact, even reading just one article is not enough. Today's article is number seven since 'No god but God' of last week. And even if you read all seven articles, that still would not mean you know what my 'ideology' is unless you have followed my 'thoughts' since, say, the mid-1990s.

Okay, maybe the word 'evolution' made you jump to the conclusion that I am talking about Darwinism and that I am suggesting that humankind evolved from apes. Evolution does not have to mean that humankind evolved from apes. It can also mean that humankind evolved from hunter-gathers to settlers -- which is what really happened if you study anthropology, sociology, archaeology, etc.

And why since about 10 days ago have I started writing almost daily about the subject of religion, in particular that of the Abrahamic faiths? Is it not obvious and have I not already explained why? It is because of late the Christians and Muslims in Malaysia have been quarrelling about religion and both sides think they know what their religion is all about.

So I want to show you two things. One is that you don't really know your own religion, and worse, you do not know the religion of 'the other side' that you are condemning. Second is to show you that this whole thing is not really about religion but about politics -- and it has always been about politics since the beginning of these religions.

Okay, since Jesus Christ came first, let us talk about Jesus.

The Romans were not too bothered about Jesus preaching his new brand of Judaism. In fact, the Romans quite liked it because Jesus was preaching love and peace and not the more militant form of Judaism that existed around that time. And Judaism was militant, have no doubts about that. They even had a team of assassins to get rid of those who opposed Judaism (and some were even reported to have 'defected' to Jesus and were said to be amongst his disciples).

Jesus opposed the institutionalisation of Judaism and its system of priesthood and 'church' hierarchy. As far as Jesus was concerned the Jews had deviated from the true teachings of the religion and Jesus wanted to restore Judaism to what it used to be and was supposed to be.

In short, Jesus challenged the powers-that-be and this was a threat to those who walked in the corridors of power. Hence they had to act against Jesus or else suffer a loss of power. And so the Jewish leaders went to meet the Romans and asked the Romans to take action against Jesus. It was the Jews and not the Romans who wanted Jesus brought down.

Was this dispute between the Jewish leaders and Jesus about doctrine? No, it was about political power. Jesus was challenging their political power and they had to retaliate or else suffer a loss of power. Hence, my conclusion is that it was about politics and not about religious dogma -- although the church would most likely disagree with my opinion.

In Muhammad's case it was the same thing. Muhammad, just like Jesus, challenged 'the system'. Hence Muhammad too was a threat to those who walked in the corridors of power and they too plotted to get rid of Muhammad. However, Muhammad was spared assassination when he escaped to Yathrib together with Abu Bakar the day he was supposed to be killed.

In Yathrib, now called Medina, Muhammad entered into an alliance with the locals, many who were Jews. The pendatang (the 'outsiders' from Mekah) had only the clothes on their backs. Hence Muhammad made a deal for the local to 'adopt' the immigrants -- basically extend food and shelter to these now homeless followers of Muhammad.

Now, Mekah's strength lay in the fact that it was the centre of religion for the Arabian Peninsular. And that, therefore, also made it the centre of trade. Hence Mekah's strength depended not only on it being the centre of religion but also on it being the centre of commerce. And this was the first thing that needed to be undermined -- Mekah's domination of economic activity.

Most people view Muhammad as a Prophet or man of religion. However, we must not forget that long before Muhammad became a Man of God he was a successful businessman. Hence he knew the power of commerce. And to defeat Mekah you must first undermine its economy.

And that was the first thing that Muhammad embarked upon -- defeat Mekah by first sabotaging its economy (just like what the west does today to its perceived enemies).

Mekah transported goods from all over the Middle East through the trade routes that passed by Yathrib. So Muhammad organised caravan raids that caused a severe dent in Mekah's economy.

One day, Muhammad received word that one of the largest caravans ever -- estimated to be at least 1,000 camels -- was making its way from Yemen to Mekah. Muhammad organised a raiding party of 313 soldiers to lie in ambush at Badr. The Jews of Yathrib then sent word to Mekah that Muhammad was going to ambush this caravan with 313 men and Mekah sent a force of 1,000 to intercept them.

This was not the first battle but was certainly the biggest battle so far where Muhammad's force was outnumbered three-to-one. Nevertheless, Muhammad's army won and the Mekah force surrendered. My opinion is that this was the turning point for Muhammad who was in the beginning perceived as just a rebel but now suddenly emerged as a military leader.

In short, this battle changed the entire course of history not only for that region but also for the entire world over more than 1,000 years to come. For their treachery the Jews were punished and that started the animosity between the Muslims and the Jews where earlier they had lived peacefully as neighbours.

Thereafter it was time to conquer Mekah and a year before he died Muhammad led an army of 10,000 men into Mekah that surrendered without a fight. So, first came economic sabotage. Then came military action. Finally came the propagation of the new religion called Islam.

Actually, Muhammad did not compel the conquered people to convert to Islam. Even after the death of Muhammad the Caliphs were quite happy to allow the people of the conquered territories to retain their original religion -- contrary to what many think.

You see, the non-Muslims have to pay a poll tax, which they would be exempted from paying if they convert to Islam. Hence it was economically viable to allow non-Muslims to remain non-Muslims. The more territories the Muslims conquered, the bigger the territory they had to rule and the larger the army they would need to retain these territories.

Hence it was not of any economic interest to convert all these people to Islam. If everyone became a Muslim then that would hurt the economy because the amount of taxes they would be able to collect would dwindle.

Hence this convert-or-die thing is not quite true.

If the non-Muslims attacked Muslim territories or rebelled, and if the Muslim army defeats them, they would be put to death and their family taken as slaves and their property confiscated. This was actually the 'Rules of War' at that time the world over. There was no concept of prisoners of war. You lose a war and the entire community gets massacred and the towns plundered and women folk and children taken as slaves.

This was not just what they did in the Middle East. Everyone did that whether in Europe, India or China. It was the custom of that era.

However, if after suffering defeat the enemy lays down his arms and declares that he is converting to Islam, it is haram (forbidden) to kill the person who surrenders. Hence the Muslims were basically the first to recognise surrender in war.

So the non-Muslims used this 'escape clause'. Fight the Muslim conquerors and if you win you massacre them. However, if you lose, then drop your sword and scream, "I am converting to Islam!" The Muslims have no choice but to spare your life and treat you as a brother, a fellow Muslim.

And that was why during the time of the Caliphs many went to war with a copy of the Qur'an. When you lose you tie the Qur'an to your spear and surrender. The Muslims would be forced to accept your surrender and spare your life.

Now, you may ask, why in the first place did the Muslim army want to conquer other territories? But that is what they all did at that time. It is called colonisation. Everyone did it. The powerful nations attacked and/or colonised the weaker nations for economic gain. They are still doing that till today.

The Persians did it. The Greeks did it. The Roman did it. The Norwegians did it. And so did the English, French, Germans, Italians, Spanish, Portuguese, Dutch, Americans, and so on. As your population grows you need to feed the people so you need to expand your territory to gain more natural resources. And you do that by colonisation. Hence the Muslims of that era were no better or no worse than the rest of the people all over the world.

The Muslims of that era were not bad. They were just being 'normal'. And, as I have written so many times before, 'normal' is subjective to time and place.


Evolution of the species

Posted: 15 Jul 2013 04:43 PM PDT

Scientific evidence and religious evidence are not of the same view regarding the origin of the species, in particular how religion came about. But religionists appear very confident that they know the truth although this truth is based on faith and not evidence. And they will kill and die to defend this truth.


Raja Petra Kamarudin

According to Archbishop James Ussher, the world was created (Day 1) just over 6,000 years ago on 23rd October 4004 BC. 

One of Ussher's many projects was to write a complete history of the world in Latin, covering every major event from the time of creation to AD 70. He published this 1,600-page volume in 1650. An English translation entitled The Annals of the World was first published in 1658, two years after his death.

In preparing this work, Ussher first made the assumption that the Bible is the only reliable source of chronological information for the time periods covered therein. In fact, before the Persian Empire (approximately the sixth to third centuries BC) very little is known from any source about Greek, Roman and Egyptian history or the history of other nations; much rests on speculation and myths. Dates in secular history become more certain with the founding of the Medo-Persian Empire.

For events before this time, Ussher relied solely on data from the Bible to erect his historical framework. He chose the death of King Nebuchadnezzar as a reliable date upon which to anchor all the earlier biblical dates. Working meticulously backward from there, he ended up with his date for creation of 23rd October 4004 BC.

According to Genesis, as what some people believe, God started building the universe just over 6,000 years ago. Islam does not have any theory on this while Hinduism places the date much earlier. Scientists, anthropologists and archaeologists say we are talking about 4.5 billion years.

But that is not the issue we want to talk about here, as it is futile to discuss an issue where no resolution can be sought. What I do want to talk about is where the three Abrahamic faiths agree. And what they agree on is that the first human was Adam, and the second was Eve.

Now, what the Abrahamic faiths also agree on is that Adam was not just the first human but the first Prophet of God as well. In other words, Adam was God's messenger who was given the task of bringing the message of God to humankind, which did not exist yet at that time until he and Eve started having children and their children had sex with one another to bless Adam and Eve with grandchildren.

So that means Adam and his family had a religion back then. And their religion was the true religion of God. From there, the descendants of Adam and Eve migrated all over the world until the great flood when they were then all wiped out because they had sinned They no longer followed the true religion of God.

Hence God decided to wipe out humankind and start all over again with Noah and his immediate family and a pair of each of the animals in existence. Then the great migration started yet again with the descendants of Noah populating the earth.

According to what the Holy Books tell us, all the animals of this world plus the handful of people from Noah's family assembled in one place. After the flood had subsided, they then went back to where they were originally from. And that is why we do not find the same animals in every country but different animals in different countries.

To conduct a study on the history of religion and a study on comparative religion, you cannot avoid the question of whether God created humankind or humankind created God. This would in particular be very apparent if you study the early religions of humankind.

Humankind was supposed to already have known God from the beginning of time. But early men were hunter-gatherers who prayed to trees, the river, the sun, the moon, etc. -- or what we call animism in anthropology of religion and psychology of religion.

Does this mean after receiving an education regarding religion and God, humankind forgot what it had learned and eventually deviated from the true religion of God?

The history of religion, according to the Gospels, if compared to what the anthropologists have to say, deviates drastically. There is a large gap in the history of humankind, which the Gospels do not explain. We start with one family and from this one family and one religion many nations emerge. All these nations are then wiped out in a great flood and humankind starts all over again with just one family and one religion.

Today, we again see humankind divided under so many nations and so many religions plus so many sects of the same religion. Were we really one and then became divided (twice) or were we never one in the first place.

Religion says we were once one and then we became divided. Anthropologists, historians and archaeologist say we were never one in the first place, as the scientific evidence seems to show.

Scientific evidence and religious evidence are not of the same view regarding the origin of the species, in particular how religion came about. But religionists appear very confident that they know the truth although this truth is based on faith and not evidence. And they will kill and die to defend this truth.

Nevertheless, one fact still remains the same -- and that is either religion is right or science is right, which means the other must be wrong.


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