The Taleban's use of human shields happened during a six-hour battle that began when British troops arrived in a remote area to flush out a suspected Taleban hideout.
..."It happened twice where they pushed women and children in front of them. The first time they ran into a compound and pushed them out the front to stop the assault," said Corporal Quintin Poll, 29, from Norfolk.
"The second time they were firing through a building with women and children inside. My guys had to go around the left and right to get them."
A village council in Pakistan has decreed that five young women should be abducted, raped and killed for refusing to honour childhood "marriages".
The women, who are cousins, were married in absentia by a mullah in their Punjabi village to illiterate sons of their family's enemies in 1996, when they were aged from six to 13.
- UK Telegraph, Nov. 22, 2005
"The only model to follow is pure Islam, because Islam in its original form was tough and hard, not weak and pliable.
Islam is fixed, stable, ordered and disciplined, and so are Muslims. If we return to the real practice of true Islam we would be much stronger and that is when the kafirs [unbelievers] will fear us. That is why we need to uphold the Sharia and return to real Islam.
But the West is trying to weaken Islam from outside and inside. They attack our people with ideas like secularism, liberalism and democracy. This is all designed to contaminate our pure Islam."
Abu Bakr Bashir,
Given the difficulty in distinguishing different nationalities, the author concluded: "We will consider all white people the enemy."
...These guidelines for suicide bombers were found on a computer captured by Indonesian police during a raid in November, and are believed to have been written by the British-educated bomb-maker Azahari Husin, who died during the attack.
RIYADH - A Saudi woman who was kidnapped at knifepoint, gang-raped and then beaten by her brother has been sentenced to 90 lashes - for meeting a man who was not a relative, a newspaper reported on Monday.
A MUSLIM doctors' leader has provoked an outcry by urging British Muslims not to vaccinate their children against diseases such as measles, mumps and rubella because it is "un-Islamic".
Dr Abdul Majid Katme, head of the Islamic Medical Association, is telling Muslims that almost all vaccines contain products derived from animal and human tissue, which make them "haram", or unlawful for Muslims to take.
Islam permits only the consumption of halal products, where the animal has had its throat cut and bled to death while God's name is invoked.
Islam and jihad
3) Pre-Islamic Arabia
"You who still have a shred of faith in your hearts, have you forgotten that to kill infidels and the enemies of Islam is a deed that has a reward above no other...
Aren't you aware that the model for us all, the Prophet Muhammad and the four rightful caliphs, undertook to murder infidels as one of their primary activities, and that the Prophet waged jihad operations 77 times in the first 10 years as head of the Muslim community in Medina?"
-- Sheik Mukhlas, 12/19/05
"At any rate, I don't think it was Muslims who [carried out the 9/11 attacks]. That's because Islam advocates peace...and Muslims are taught not to take human life."
- Junaid Tariq, 2006
The Arabian peninsula or jazeerah, largely what is Saudi Arabia today, is one of the largest hottest and driest regions in the world. Much of this harsh environment is utterly barren. In spite of these conditions two thousand years ago, it nonetheless was inhabited by nomadic tribes (Bedou). A Bedouin tribe consisted of a group of clans; clans consisted of a group of families, often times a single, large extended family. As both a cause and effect of this structure, each individual tribe had many internal blood-ties. A tribe was essentially a commune that shared what resources it could find and defend from other tribes.
Tribes were led by a democratically elected leader or sheikh. The title sheikh (or sheik; Arabic-to-English translations vary on many spellings as you've seen) means "one who bears the marks of old age", and their term lasted as long as the tribe found favor with them. Their chief function was the protection of the members of the tribe. Offices such as war leader, spiritual leader, and judicial leader were usually filled by others, though the sheikh may have served in one of these roles as well. Other decisions were made by consensus likely based on what served the overall community best.
Tribal warfare was rather common as clans and tribes continually competed with one another for the very limited resources of the desert lands. Water, agriculture, women, and slaves were all prized possessions of which acquisition by any means could mean the difference between survival and death. So harsh were conditions and at times so necessary for survival was raiding for supplies (razzias) that such extra-tribal raids (ghazwa) were viewed as a legitimate practice. Muslim writer/apologist Reza Aslan explains:
In pre-Islamic Arabia, caravan raiding was a legitimate means for small clans to benefit from the wealth of larger ones. It was in no way considered stealing, and as long as no violence occurred and no blood was shed, there was no need for retribution.
The retribution of which he speaks was not just any sort of vengeful reaction, but one of the few codes by which Bedouin lived. Again, Aslan:
In a society with no concept of an absolute morality as dictated by a divine code of ethics - a Ten Commandments, if you will - the Shaykh had only one legal recourse for maintaining order in his tribe: the Law of Retribution...more popularly known in the West as the somewhat crude concept of "an eye for an eye."
...It was the Shaykh's responsibility to maintain peace and stability in his community by ensuring the proper retribution for all crimes committed within the tribe. Crimes committed against those outside the tribe were not only unpunished, they were not really crimes. Stealing, killing, or injuring another person was not considered a morally reprehensible act per se, and such acts were punished only if they weakened the stability of the tribe.
The Bedouins became known for this rugged lifestyle of migrating, trading, and raiding. Meanwhile, the other indigenous residents of the Arabian peninsula were those who had taken up static residence in the perimeter pasture lands and in other areas capable of being farmed. These included large numbers of Arab Christians and Arab Jews. They were seldom joined in residence by Bedouins because nomadic philosophy largely disdained tilling of the soil and becoming materially tied to any one place (with exceptions).
Perhaps as a result of their constant migrating and the resulting social development cost, the Bedouin were among the least literate of Middle Eastern people groups. They did not develop a written language until after Muhammad died when the need arose to make a record of his sayings.
Collectively, all these years prior to Islam are now known to Muslims as the al jahiliyah or the "time of ignorance".
Spiritually, the Bedouin were pagan in nature, meaning they held a variety of informal beliefs about life and the world. This made them inherently pluralistic and hence had no religious quarrels with neighboring Christians or Jews. The Bedouin were said to have worshipped as many as 360 gods; chief among them were the Syrian god Hubal and the creator god Allah. Aslan says about Allah:
Like his Greek counterpart, Zeus, Allah was originally an ancient rain/sky deity who had been elevated into the role of the supreme god of the pre-Islamic Arabs. Though a powerful deity to swear by, Allah's eminent status in the Arab pantheon rendered him, like most High Gods, beyond the supplications of ordinary people. Only in times of great peril would anyone bother consulting him.
Allah had three daughters: al-Lat (the goddess), al-Uzzah (the mighty), and al-Manat (fate). The daughters served as moderators to whom many Bedouin prayed to petition Allah on their behalf.
While the Bedouin had no formalized theology, nor any sacred writings, they did revere the Ka'ba. By Muhammad's day, the Ka'ba was a cube-shaped shrine that housed an icon for each of their 360 gods except for Allah. The exact origin of the Ka'ba is unknown, but it was considered most sacred and all Bedouin were obligated to visit the icon of their particular god once every year. This visit was made during the first three months of spring. These were the months of 'Holy Truce' during which warring was to cease and concentration was to be given to spiritual affairs.
The Ka'ba was (and still is) located in the city of Mecca. When Bedouin caravans from all around the region would approach the city for their annual pilgrimage, they would be halted outside the city's confines. There an inventory had to be made of their goods. Meccan officials assessed their value and levied a tax on them for proceeding. The financial advantage of being in control of this destination city was enormous, and that fact did not go unnoticed.
In Mecca's earlier history, numerous clans had long competed for control of this revenue generator. It wasn't until the end of the fourth century when it would come to be dominated by a single clan thanks to a certain individual. That individual was a man named Qusayy. He conceived the idea of uniting his clan with other clans sharing various blood-ties into a single, large, powerful tribe called the Quraysh. The Quraysh succeeded in seizing Mecca, upon which Qusayy declared himself its king.
Qusayy set himself up as the sole authority over both Mecca and the Ka'ba. Mecca was reconfigured so that its settlements ringed the city in radial tiers with the Ka'ba at its center. The greater one's position, the closer one was allowed to live to the sacred Ka'ba. As for Qusayy's residence, it essentially ringed the Ka'ba such that one had to actually pass through the house of Qusayy in order to worship the idols.
To further consolidate his religious and financial empire, Qusayy raided other city's temples, destroying them, and collected their idols into his Ka'ba. That way, whichever god you sought, you had to pay an access fee to Mecca's Ka'ba in order to worship it. Like some incredible religious theme park, Qusayy additionally held a monopoly over basic services provided to visiting pilgrims which increased his clan's wealth greatly every year. Aslan summarizes:
By inextricably linking the religious and economic life of the city, Qusayy and his descendants had developed an innovative religio-economic system that relied on control of the Ka'ba and its pilgrimage rites - rites in which nearly the whole of the Hijaz [western Arabian region] participated - to guarantee the economic, religious, and political supremacy of a single tribe, the Quraysh.
That is why the Abyssinians tried to destroy the Ka'ba in the Year of the Elephant...not because the Ka'ba was a religious threat, but because it was an economic rival.
Not ignorant of how he came to power nor ignorant of Mecca's history of changing hands, Qusayy conceived and exercised a brilliant defensive move to safeguard his clan's rule. Having secured the monopoly on the region's idols, he convincingly declared Mecca to be a sacred city requiring it to be a weapon-free zone. He banned weapons from all visitors at the outer checkpoints where inventory was taken, save from those of his own clan. Never again would the city fall to a rival clan or tribe.
Neither would Mecca technically fall out of Quraysh hands when a certain man would come along in the seventh century and conquer the city for himself. For from the family of Quraysh would come its own conqueror - the Quraysh descendant named Muhammad.
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NEXT: Who was Muhammad? - part 1
WHY THIS CHAPTER?
In many ways, Islam is simply Bedouin culture redressed in monotheism.
Insofar as that is applicable, no greater understanding of Muhammad and Islam can be had than by looking at pre-Islamic Arabia in which both were born.