Muhammad and the Believers: At the Origins of Islam by Fred McGraw Donner

By Fred McGraw Donner

The origins of Islam were the topic of accelerating controversy lately. the normal view, which offers Islam as a self-consciously unique faith tied to the lifestyles and revelations of the prophet Muhammad in western Arabia, has because the Seventies been challenged by means of historians engaged in severe examine of the Muslim assets. In Muhammad and the Believers, the eminent historian Fred Donner bargains a lucid and unique imaginative and prescient of ways Islam first developed. He argues that the origins of Islam lie in what we might name the "Believers' move" started through the prophet Muhammad—a circulation of non secular reform emphasizing strict monotheism and righteous habit in conformity with God's published legislation. The Believers' move hence integrated righteous Christians and Jews in its early years, simply because just like the Qur'anic Believers, Christians and Jews have been monotheists and agreed to reside righteously in obedience to their printed legislations. The conviction that Muslims constituted a separate spiritual group, completely detailed from Christians and Jews, emerged a century later, whilst the leaders of the Believers' flow determined that purely those that observed the Qur'an because the ultimate revelation of the single God and Muhammad because the ultimate prophet, certified as Believers. This separated them decisively from monotheists who adhered to the Gospels or Torah. (20100627)

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Or Christianity. The special relationship of the Sasanians to Zoroastrianism, however, endured until the end of the dynasty, and with good reason, for Zoroastrianism bolstered the Sasanians' ideology of universal rule because the great king was considered to represent the dominion of Ahura Mazda over the world. This, and the Sasanians' sense that they were heirs to great Aryan empires of times gone by, led them to consider themselves superior to all other earthly powers (such as the Byzantines) who were, in their view, mere upstarts and qualified only to be their tributaries.

E. Realizing that most of Quraysh would not soon be won over, Muhammad began to preach his message at periodic markets outside Mecca in order to find other supporters. Initially he met with little success, and he was rebuffed by the leaders of the town of al-Ta,if, about 100 km (about 60 mi) west of Mecca. Around that time, however, he was contacted by a small group of men from the town ofYathrib, a cluster of datepalm oases situated about 325 km (200 mi) north of Mecca. As discussed earlier, Yathrib had long been torn by political strife between the Aws and the Khazraj, rival clans of its dominant tribe, the Banu Qayla.

For both political and economic reasons, the Byzantines and Sasanians felt a need to maintain a presence in Arabia-if only to thwart the other from gaining too much influence there. Yet, the dearth of resources in northern Arabia discouraged them from trying to establish direct control over this area, for it would have cost more to garrison and administer it than they could hope to secure in taxes. Instead, they adopted the stratagem of establishing alliances with the chiefs of Arabian tribes, who then served the empires' interests in exchange for cash subsidies, weapons, and titles; such indirect rule was much cheaper, in money and men, than trying to control 32 MUHAMMAD AND THE BELIEVERS the area directly with their own troops.

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