Tuesday, December 29, 2020

How Islam deified tribalism

Aside from its religious veneer, Islam can easily be defined and understood by one wholly areligious word: tribalism — the bane of any democratic or pluralistic society.

The fact is, the entire appeal of Muhammad's call to the Arabs of his time lay in its compatibility with their tribal mores, three in particular: loyalty to one's tribe, enmity for other tribes, and raids on the latter to enrich and empower the former.

For seventh-century Arabs — and later tribal peoples, chiefly Turks and Tatars, who also found natural appeal in and converted to Islam — the tribe was what humanity is to modern people: to be part of it was to be treated humanely; to be outside it was to be treated inhumanely.  This is no exaggeration: Muslim philosopher Ibn Khaldun (d. 1406) described the Arabs of his time (let alone those from Muhammad's more primitive era eight centuries earlier) as "the most savage human beings that exist.  Compared with sedentary people they are on a level with wild, untamable animals and dumb beasts of prey.  Such people are the Arabs."

Muhammad upheld the dichotomy of tribalism, but by prioritizing fellow Muslims over blood relatives.  Thus, in his "Constitution of Medina," he asserted that "a believer shall not slay a believer for the sake of an unbeliever, nor shall he aid an unbeliever against a believer."  Moreover, all Muslims were to become "friends one to the other to the exclusion of outsiders."

Hence, the umma — an Arabic word etymologically connected to the word "mother" and which signifies the Islamic "Super-Tribe" that transcends racial, national, and linguistic barriers — was born, and its natural enemy remained everyone outside it.

The Islamic doctrine of al-wala' wa'l-bara' ("loyalty and enmity"), which Muhammad preached and the Koran commands, captures all this. The latter goes so far as to command all Muslims to "renounce" and "disown" their non-Muslim relatives — "even if they be their fathers, their sons, their brothers, or their nearest kindred" — and to feel only "enmity and hate" for them until they "believe in Allah alone" (Koran 58:22 and 60:4; see also 4:89, 4:144, 5:51, 5:54, 9:23, and 60:1).  These verses are in reference to a number of Muhammad's close companions, who renounced and eventually slaughtered their own non-Muslim relatives as a show of their loyalty to Allah and the believers.  One slew his father, another his brother.  A third — Abu Bakr, the first caliph — tried to slay his son, and Omar, the second caliph, slaughtered several relatives.  (For more, see the nearly sixty-page treatise "Loyalty and Enmity" in The Al Qaeda Reader.)

Hence, the jihad was born.  As only two tribes existed — the Islamic umma in one tent and the dehumanized tribes of the world in another — Muslims were exhorted to attack and subjugate all these "infidels" in order to make their Super-Tribe supreme..............To Read More.....

 

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