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Basic Worldview:
104 Why Christianity?

Explaining the Success of Islam (Part 2)

Evidentiary Religions - Islam Introduction
Koran and Judeo-Christian Apostles
Koran and Judeo-Christian Scriptures
Koran Contradicts Judeo-Christianity (Part 1)
Koran Contradicts Judeo-Christianity (Part 2)
Koran Contradicts Judeo-Christianity (Part 3)
Koran Contradicts Judeo-Christianity (Part 4)
Another Gospel and Explaining the Success of Islam (P. 1)
Explaining the Success of Islam (Part 2)
Explaining the Success of Islam (Part 3)
Islam Conclusions

| Section 1 | Section 2 | Section 3

(Continued from previous section.)

But what about Mohammed himself? Perhaps it was just these homeless emigrants who were raiding the caravans.

"Muhammad - Others, with the approval of Muhammad, set out in normal Arab fashion on razzias (ghazawat, "raids") in the hope of intercepting Meccan caravans passing near Medina on their way to Syria." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - Muhammad himself led three such razzias in 623. They all failed, probably because traitors betrayed the Muslim movements to the enemy. At last, in January 624, a small band of men was sent eastward with sealed orders telling them to proceed to Nakhlah, near Mecca, and attack a caravan from Yemen. This they did successfully, and in doing so they violated pagan ideas of sanctity - thereby making the Meccans aware of the seriousness of the threat from Muhammad." - Britannica.com

Mohammed not only approved of the raiding of Meccan caravans, but he also ordered some and personally participated in others, including 3 such raids in 623, just one year after his flight to Medina.

So, how does these raids escalate to broader military conflict resulting in the spreading of Islam through armed battle?

"Muhammad, prophet of Islam - Medina lies on the caravan route N of Mecca, and the Kuraishites of Mecca could not endure the thought of their outlawed relative taking vengeance on his native city by plundering their caravans." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

As stated above, these raids by Mohammed and the Muslims made "the Meccans aware of the seriousness of the threat from Muhammad" Needless to say that the Meccans were not happy that Mohammed and his 70 emigrant followers from Mecca were now making a living for themselves by raiding Meccan caravans. So, the Meccans took up arms to stop Mohammed and his followers. Our next excerpts will recount what happens next.

"Muhammad - In March 624 he was able to lead about 315 men on a razzia to attack a wealthy Meccan caravan returning from Syria. The caravan, led by Abu Sufyan, the head of the Umayyah clan, eluded the Muslims by devious routes and forced marches. Abu Jahl, the head of the Makhzum clan, however, leading a supporting force of perhaps 800 men, wanted to teach Muhammad a lesson and did not withdraw. On March 15, 624, near a place called Badr, the two forces found themselves in a situation, perhaps contrived by Muhammad, from which neither could withdraw without disgrace. In the ensuing battle at least 45 Meccans were killed, including Abu Jahl and other leading men, and nearly 70 taken prisoner, while only 14 Muslims died. To Muhammad this appeared to be a divine vindication of his prophethood, and he and all the Muslims were greatly elated." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad, prophet of Islam - A pitched battle between Muhammad's men and the Meccans occurred at Badr, and the victory of an inferior force from the poorer city over the men of Mecca gave Islam great prestige in SW Arabia." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Notice the timeframe for these events is March 624 AD. This is just 2 years after Mohammed's relocation to Medina and at this point in time Mohammed himself has already been on a least 3 raids as well as approving and ordering many others. To put is simply, in the 2 years since his flight from Mecca to Medina, Mohammed and his followers were engaging in pirating raids on caravans from Mecca for financial benefit. This came to a conflict when about 800 Meccans arrived to support the caravan and counterattack the Muslim raiders. This is known as the battle of Badr.

The result of the Battle was that although Mohammed and his Muslims raiders were "an inferior force" they lost only 14 men compared to the 45 men lost by the Meccans. They also managed to take 70 of the Meccan's prisoner.

This definitive victory by the weaker Muslims marked a turning point for Mohammed and Islam. Not only were these raids about armed thievery, but the victory on this particular raid gave the relatively small community of Muslims confidence that Mohammed was indeed a prophet from God. The victory by the weaker Muslim raiders over the superior Meccans (who were simply defending their caravans) was indeed viewed as a sign of God's support.

"Muhammad - In the flush of victory some persons in Medina who had satirized Muhammad in verse were assassinated, perhaps with his connivance...The remaining waverers among the Arabs probably became Muslims about this time. Thus the victory of Badr greatly strengthened Muhammad." - Britannica.com

Consequently, as the quote above demonstrates, this military victory not only led to the assassination of Mohammed's critics in Medina, but to additional conversions to Islam as well. With this unlikely military victory at Badr, Islam began to expand and bring in new converts.

And with the victory at Badr behind him and people at Medina being more open to his leadership, Mohammed continued even more raids to bring in even more stolen goods to his followers from the Meccan caravans.

"Muhammad - In the same year Muhammad led larger Muslim forces on razzias against hostile nomadic tribes and had some success. Presumably, he realized that the Meccans were bound to try to avenge their defeat. Indeed, Abu Sufyan was energetically mobilizing Meccan power. On March 21, 625, he entered the oasis of Medina with 3,000 men...On the morning of March 23 the Meccan infantry attacked and was repulsed with considerable loss. As the Muslims pursued, the Meccan cavalry launched a flank attack after the archers guarding the Muslim left had abandoned their position. The Muslims were thrown into confusion. Some made for a fort and were cut down, but Muhammad and the bulk of his force managed to gain the lower slopes of Uhud, where they were safe from the cavalry." - Britannica.com

Just one year after the victory at Badr, the Meccans and Muslims met again in combat in March of 625 AD. Just as before, the Meccans were attempting to defend their caravans from Mohammed and his forces who were again engaged in raids. This time, the Muslims were not successful as they had been at Badr.

"Muhammad, prophet of Islam - More than a year later the battle of Uhud was fought but with less fortunate results." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

"Muhammad - The battle produced neither a clear victor nor loser. In Badr and Uhud together, the Meccans had killed about as many men as they had lost; but they had boasted that they would make the Muslims pay several times over, and they had not shown the degree of superiority appropriate to their leading position in Arabia." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - Muhammad, though he had lost above 70 men, realized that this was a military reverse, not a defeat; but the confidence of the Muslims and perhaps his own had been struck a serious blow. If the victory of Badr was a sign of God's support, did Uhud indicate that he had abandoned the Muslims? Muhammad's faith soon overcame any momentary doubts, and he was gradually able to restore the confidence of his followers." - Britannica.com

The problem now was simple. Mohammed's military victory over the Meccans at Badr had greatly helped to convince the people that God was on his side. But since God did not provide the same decisive victory at Uhud but instead the Muslims found themselves in a stalemate, the confidence in Mohammed's divine mandate was in question and needed to be restored.

In the mutual loss at Uhud provides a very significant example of what we promised above. As we began this survey of the militant origins of Islam, we stated that even though Mohammed was able to greatly advance Islam through military means, his military efforts were a mixture of successes and failures. These mixed results provided further demonstration that neither Mohammed's military success nor his success at spreading Islam were the work of a divine power. They were merely the result of mixed human efforts and opportunities. And the mutual losses on both sides at Uhud provided just such a demonstration to the people of Mecca and Medina, who now experienced temporary doubts about Mohammed's legitimacy as a prophet.

So, after the problematic result at Uhud, Mohammed moves ahead to continue building his Islamic community. And how does he build that confidence and community? Through more caravan raids, which provided additional material gain for his followers.

"Muhammad - For two years after Uhud, both sides prepared for a decisive encounter. In the razzias Muhammad led or sanctioned, he seems to have aimed at extending his own alliances and at preventing others from joining the Meccans." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - Ever since the hijrah, Muhammad had been forming alliances with nomadic tribes. At first these were probably nonaggression pacts, but, when he was strong enough to offer protection, he made it a condition of alliance that the tribe should become Muslim." - Britannica.com

Here we see that after Uhud Mohammed wisely uses his raids to build alliances in order to help him with his ongoing military conflict with the Meccan's, who were attacking Mohammed in defense of their own caravans.

"Muhammad - And another Jewish clan was expelled from Medina. At length, in April 627 Abu Sufyan led a great confederacy of 10,000 men against Medina...For a fortnight the confederates besieged the Muslims. Attempts to cross the trench failed...Then, after a night of wind and rain the great army melted away. The Meccans had exerted their utmost might and had failed to dislodge Muhammad, whose position was now greatly strengthened." - Britannica.com

So, after Uhud and after 2 years of continued raids in which Mohammed used the raids to build alliances, the Meccans finally attacked again in April 627 AD. But the Meccans failed to defeat Mohammed once again and the result was that Mohammed's strength, both in perception and in reality, continued to grow.

However, by this point in time, Mohammed and the Muslims had expanded their raiding to include other groups such as the Jews living in the area, who provided another opportunity for financial conquest.

"Muhammad - After the siege of Medina, Muhammad attacked the Jewish clan of Qurayzah, which had probably been intriguing against him. When they surrendered, the men were all executed and the women and children sold as slaves." - Britannica.com

So, again and again we are seeing these same elements. Mohammed is raiding caravans and clans including Meccans and Jews and others to provide financially for his followers. His is using these raids also to create a system of alliances to help him against the Meccans who are now engaged in a prolonged counterattack campaign against Mohammed because of the raids. And the longer Mohammed holds out against the Meccans and the more raids he can carry out, the more people he is able to convince and the more military allies he is able to acquire.

Mohammed's ability to spread Islam is no mystery. Nor is it the result of divine assistance. Islam grew because Mohammed was winning military victories, forming military alliances against his enemies, and providing for his followers through pirating raids on caravans.

But, having successfully held out against the Meccans' most determined efforts in the siege of 627 AD, Mohammed now set his sites on his former hometown, Mecca itself.

"Muhammad - The Meccans were determined to prevent the Muslims from entering their town, so Muhammad halted at al-Hudaybiyah, on the edge of the sacred territory of Mecca. After some critical days the Meccans made a treaty with Muhammad. Hostilities were to cease, and the Muslims were to be allowed to make the pilgrimage to Mecca in 629.

In 628 AD, Mohammed marched against Mecca but instead of victory, Mohammed settled for a treaty with the Muslims that would end conflict with the Meccans and allow the Muslims to make pilgrimage there. Here again we see another example of Mohammed's mixture of moderate successes, which again bears evidence that Mohammed's victories were not the decisive work of a divine being.

After this treaty with the Meccans, Mohammed turned his sites on an easier opponent, one he could raid with more success in order to continue the ongoing flow of financial wealth to his followers. This, of course, was again the Jews who lived in the region.

"Muhammad - The orderly withdrawal showed how completely Muhammad controlled his followers. Partly to reward this orderly conduct, Muhammad two months later led the same force against the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, north of Medina. After a siege it submitted, but the Jews were allowed to remain on condition of sending half of the date harvest to Medina. Thus throughout 628 and 629 Muhammad's power was growing, since success led more men to become Muslims, for the religious attraction of Islam was apparently supplemented by material motives." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad, prophet of Islam - Medina had a large Jewish population which controlled most of the wealth of the city, and they steadfastly refused to give their new ruler any kind of religious allegiance. Muhammad, after a long quarrel, appropriated much of their property, and his first actual conquest was the oasis of Khaibar, occupied by the Jews, in 628." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

Of course, the focus of Mohammed's raid was the Jewish oasis of Khaybar. But we should also take note that Mohammed had since assumed control of Jewish wealth in Medina due to the refusal of the Jews there to give him any religious allegiance. In these two actions, we again see the extent to which Islam was advanced through military conquest, material provision, and persecution of those who refused to pay homage to Mohammed, which the following quote will attest to as well.

"Islam - Jews and Christians were assigned a special status as communities possessing scriptures and called the "people of the Book" (ahl al-kitab) and, therefore, were allowed religious autonomy. They were, however, required to pay a per capita tax called jizyah, as opposed to pagans, who were required to either accept Islam or die." - Britannica.com

As we can see, the more strength Islam gained through its military actions, the more it forced its religion on other peoples. Jews were in some cases raided (as in Khaybar and Qurayzah) and in other cases money taken from them simply for not giving Mohammed religious allegiance (as in Medina). As we have seen, Pagan Arabs were forced to accept Islam in order to obtain military alliance or protection. And in other cases, pagan Arabs were forced to accept Islam or die.

Still, the story of Islam's rise through military conquest for financial benefit continues.

"Muhammad - An attack by Meccan allies in about November 629 upon allies of Muhammad led to the latter's denunciation of the treaty of al-Hudaybiyah. After secret preparations he marched on Mecca in January 630 with 10,000 men. Abu Sufyan and other leading Meccans went out to meet him and formally submitted, and Muhammad promised a general amnesty. When he entered Mecca there was virtually no resistance." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad, prophet of Islam - In 630 he marched against Mecca, which fell without a fight. Arabia was won." - The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001.

So, from his flight to Medina in 622 AD to his victorious entry into Mecca in 630 AD, the spread of Islam can be clearly attributed to Mohammed's mixed but ultimately successful results in military conquest for the financial gain of his followers.

But notice that Mohammed's activities in Mecca also provide further corroboration that Islam grew simply by means of Mohammed's military strength and his providing of material goods to his followers.

"Muhammad - Thus Muhammad, who had left Mecca as a persecuted prophet, not merely entered it again in triumph but also gained the allegiance of most of the Meccans. Though he did not insist on their becoming Muslims, many soon did so." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - Muhammad spent 15 to 20 days in Mecca settling various matters of administration. Idols were destroyed in the Ka'bah and in some small shrines in the neighbourhood. To relieve the poorest among his followers, he demanded loans from some of the wealthy Meccans." - Britannica.com

It cannot be said that the Meccan's conversion resulted from legitimate persuasion that Islam was true. Instead, now in a position of military control over Mecca, Mohammed uses his military strength to destroy the idols and shrines of other gods worshipped by the Meccans. The result of this military action against their religious practices is that most of the Meccans finally convert to Islam. The Meccans did not convert because they were persuaded of Islam's validity but because Mohammed was exercising his military prowess to outright destroy their former religious practices.

Additionally, it is important to note that upon conquest of Mecca, not only did Mohammed use his military might to crush opposing religions, but he also used his position of prowess to force wealthy Meccans to make loans to provide for the poorer Muslims. In this way, not only was military might used to aid in conversion, but material gain continued to be a benefit for the converted, as it had been all along from the very beginning of the raids in 622 AD after the flight to Medina.

And did the spreading of Islam through military conquest and pirating raids end once Mohammed conquered Mecca? Nope.

"Muhammad - He might have proceeded to crush the Meccans, and he indeed put economic pressure on them; but his main aim was to gain their willing adherence to Islam. He had already realized that, insofar as the Arabs became Muslims, it would be necessary to direct outward the energies expended on razzias against one another." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - When he marched east to meet a new threat, 2,000 Meccans went with him." - Britannica.com

Most notably, they continued the "razzias" or raids, by which he and his Muslim followers had provided for themselves financially from the beginning starting with the flight to Medina in 622 AD. The only real difference was, he was no longer fighting against the Meccans. From now on, the Meccan's went with him as part of his own forces. With the Meccan's defeated and subsequently converted after his destruction of their idols and shrines, Mohammed turned his attention outward toward other Arab groups.

The reason for this action against other Arab groups was two-fold. As shown above, Islam has always spread through two primary means. First, Islam had always grown through military action against unbelieving groups, such as the Meccans and even some Jews in the region. So, for Islam to continue to spread, that would require continued military conquest of unbelieving groups. Second, conversion had always benefited followers financially, not only from the very onset with the first raids from Medina but also in the loans for the poor Muslims acquired upon conquest of Mecca. So, for Islam to continue to spread, that would presumably required the continuation of financial provision and material benefit for the converts.

And so the raids and military action did in fact continue against unbelieving groups to the financial benefit of those who decided to convert and follow Mohammed. However, Mohammed was now much more powerful militarily after his conquest of Mecca. Since Mecca was arguably the strongest and wealthiest group in the area, its defeat also brought other tribes into military alliance with Mohammed. So, this military might not only forced the Meccans to conversion through the destruction of their idols and shrines, but it also forced the conversion of the tribes, which sought alliances after Mecca's defeat.

"Muhammad - Muhammad was now militarily the strongest man in Arabia. Most tribes sent deputations to Medina seeking alliance." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - Ever since the hijrah, Muhammad had been forming alliances with nomadic tribes. At first these were probably nonaggression pacts, but, when he was strong enough to offer protection, he made it a condition of alliance that the tribe should become Muslim. While in Mecca Muhammad had word of a large concentration of hostile nomads, and he set out to confront them." - Britannica.com

So, to this point, Mohammed's surprise victory at Badr in 624 AD allowed him to crush opposition in Medina, including the use of assassinations against critics.

"Muhammad - In the flush of victory some persons in Medina who had satirized Muhammad in verse were assassinated, perhaps with his connivance...The remaining waverers among the Arabs probably became Muslims about this time. Thus the victory of Badr greatly strengthened Muhammad." - Britannica.com

Then Mohammed's conquest of Mecca in 630 allowed him to destroy the idols and shrines of the Meccans, who subsequently converted.

"Muhammad - Muhammad spent 15 to 20 days in Mecca settling various matters of administration. Idols were destroyed in the Ka'bah and in some small shrines in the neighbourhood." - Britannica.com

And as we just saw above, this victory in Mecca also gave Mohammed the strength to acquire more alliances with other Arab tribes and to make conversion to Islam a requirement for the alliance. With his military now the strongest in the region, Mohammed continued further raids to expand his territory and using the spoils to provide financial benefit to the converts.

"Muhammad - While in Mecca Muhammad had word of a large concentration of hostile nomads, and he set out to confront them. A battle took place at Hunayn in which part of Muhammad's army was put to flight, but he himself and some older Muslims stood firm. The enemy was finally routed, and their dependents and possessions were all captured. They were allowed to ransom wives and children, but their livestock was divided as booty." - Britannica.com

What is again interesting about the excerpt above is that even after his victory in Mecca, Mohammed's military successes were still a mix of failure and success. It was thought that Mohammed's victory at Badr with inferior forces demonstrated that God was with him. But now with the strongest military in the region, Mohammed's forces were put to flight. The victory was not a decisive display of divine support, but eventually victory was obtained and again the spoils of war were divided among those who had converted to Islam.

As to the successful spread of Islam after Mohammed's death in 632 AD, his pattern of enlarging Islam through military conquest and provided financial incentive to the followers continued with his successors.

"Muhammad - The greatest of all of Muhammad's razzias occurred at the end of 630, when he took 30,000 men on a month's journey to the Syrian border. In this campaign he pioneered the invasion of Syria and made agreements that became models for treaty arrangements with captured peoples." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - It is noteworthy that his largest razzias, apart from the expeditions against the Meccans, were along the route to Syria followed by the Arab armies after his death." - Britannica.com

"Muhammad - Before his death, armed opposition to him appeared in one or two parts of Arabia, but the Islamic state was strong enough to deal with this. Thus he left most of Arabia united and poised for expansion into Syria and Iraq." - Britannica.com

In the years before his death, Mohammed's raids only increased in size as Mohammed set his sights beyond Arabia to the rest of the Middle East, including Syria and Iraq. His success in battle and his habit of dividing the spoils for the financial benefit of anyone who converted, particularly those who participated in the fighting, set the stage for his successors to continue the very successful methods of spreading Islam.

But despite their success, these methods were anything but proof of divine support. Instead, the success was the simple outcome of natural, human activity. Financial incentive was provided both for conversion and for fighting by means of dividing the spoils of the raids to Muslim families who participated. Financial incentive led to more converts. Increased fighters led to increased military victories. Increased military success led to more converts and more financial spoils for Muslims, which in turn provided still further incentive to fight, conquer, and spread Islam.

In short, nothing about Islam's successful expansion provides any validation whatsoever to Mohammed's claim that he was God's chosen messenger or that his teaching was from the true God.

(Continued in next section.)

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