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Friday, May 14, 2010

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Mohammed and Moses: Was the Jewish Prophet the template for Mohammed?

Mohammed had to get his program from somewhere.

by Ferdinand III





The Koran spends an inordinate amount of time trying to convince the reader that Moses was a Muslim. Large tracts of the Koran discuss, and corrupt, the Jewish Torah, or Old Testament. This was obviously an attempt to legitimize the leadership of Mohammed by drawing a direct line from one of the greatest of Jewish leaders and Prophets to the Arab political and military adventurer. The Jews, who knew that much of what Mohammed said made little sense and was in fact irreligious, rejected him as a 'Prophet'. To do this day, Jews have paid the price for this rejection in their own blood, beset by Muslim terror and endless jihadic war. All commanded by Mohammed and his moon deity guardian – Allah.

But an interesting question is rarely asked. Did the illiterate supremacist and war-leader Mohammed know the details of the life of the true Moses, who reigned some 2000 years previously? Could Mohammed have learnt from the example of one of history's most interesting leaders? Is this why he spends, through the Koran, such a huge amount of effort, attempting to convince Jews, and Koranic readers, that Moses was his precursor, a devout Muslim and speaker of Allah's word? Could Mohammed have known that Moses was primarily a political and military leader ?

Most importantly did Mohammed choose Moses as his own template for success, political power and spiritual control?

I believe that the answer is a clear yes if you look at Mohammed, his political program and the creation of an ideology which is in large measure a direct copy and plagiarism of what Moses did, and taught.

Moses was first and foremost a military and political leader.

As the exodus story tell us, the integration of spiritual power and civil leadership by Moses over the Hebrews, was a secondary act, designed to quell an incipient rebellion. This happened somewhere in the Sinai peninsula probably not on the Mount Sinai of today, but on another mountain, which was most likely a scene of copper smelting, armaments production and food production. It is highly unlikely that the Hebrews would have been led by Moses into the desert without recourse to replenishing food, military supplies and to engage in rest. In any event the spiritual dimension of Moses' leadership, ever-present to the Jews as the 600 families left Egypt, was probably superseded by his military and political control.

Moses as a political leader negates the fantastical stories of his divinely inspired powers, and the calls to 'God', which resulted in the derangement of Egyptian life; the 10 plagues; and the release of the Hebrews from bondage. More likely was the more prosaic fact that the Hebrews were former Canaanite slaves, impressed or sold into Egyptian labor camps, to help in the creation of public monuments and construction. The Hebrews were also renowned at war. The Exodus of some 600 families or a few thousand people, was most likely achieved after a successful rebellion or a period of social unrest – instigated by, or led by, Moses. After this partial revolt, freedom or ostracism was granted by the Pharaoh Ramses II to Moses and his people. As the valuable and skilled Hebrew workmen and warriors left, the edict was reversed, and Moses had to lead his scant forces and out-fight, and out-fox the Egyptian army. Through skill and winning skirmishes he manage to lead his few thousands into the Sinai desert – an area he supposedly spent 40 years in, as a shepherd and wanderer. In any event Moses was an adept and skill military leader, using speed, changes of direction, feints and sharp flanking movements and attacks to both defeat and outrun the Egyptian forces and find the safety of the deserts.

The Red Sea partition by God, in which the waters were parted for the Hebrews, but which later swallowed up the pursuing Egyptians is due to a mistranslation. The Sea of Reeds is a marshy bed on the northern coast of the Red Sea. Moses was very familiar with this area; and most likely the small Hebrew force defeated a much larger Egyptian force in a skirmish, and then with trickery and feints slipped away during the darkness of one night, through the perilous and difficult Sea of Reeds, into the safety of the desert. This would have left the slower and heavier armed Egyptians wondering which way the Hebrews could have fled, and probably surmising that they had headed back into Egypt to acquire supplies and water.

The Hebrew ideology was thus formed in war. Monotheism was only joined to Hebrew rites and beliefs during the trek from Egypt back to their former lands in Canaan, picked up in Midia in the Sinai. The Egyptians had flirted with monotheism during the reign 50 years previous to Ramses II of Akhenaton [who unified all gods into the Sun God]. It is highly likely that the Semitic Midians [and even Moses himself], picked up this theme and became the first tribe to structure their religious offerings and practices around the appeasement of one key Godhead – one they called Yahweh, which would become the Jewish God. Moses and his caravan of exodus Jews would have learnt or perhaps become reacquainted with this Yahweh, from the Midians and would have infused the Midian belief of one divine power, with existing Hebrew sacraments and theologies, including the 10 words which would become the 10 commandments. Along with the 10 words the Hebrews would have importantly disavowed, as Abraham had done 1000 years before Moses, child and human sacrifice. The exodus' importance therefore lies in two main innovations; the first being the creation of a Hebrew tribe which would become the Jewish people; and the second being the adoption by the Jews of Yahweh and building a society around the 10 words supposedly given by Yahweh to Moses.

If we view the life of Moses in a realistic and historical perspective it is highly likely that he was a skilled leader of men, a capable arbiter of disparate groups who differed over theology; and a military commander of some innate genius. In other words a politician and warrior. Could Mohammed have known this ?

The Koran mentions Moses almost 130 times. This is the most of any character. Allah is the purported narrator of the Arab Bible. He is thus spending a lot of time linking Moses to Mohammed, proving that Mohammed is simply the latest, and most supreme of the Jewish prophets and one who must lead by the example of Moses – himself a military-political leader of brilliance. The ten words of Moses are also appropriated by the Arabs and 'Arabicized' and changed, to be Muslim commandments again tying Islam to the ancient Jewish leadership. In Islamic theology Moses was simply doing the bidding of Allah, whom the Jews and Midianites incorrectly had called Yahweh:

“Abu Bakr [Mohammed's neighbour and successor, who also gave Mohammed his 6 year old daughter Aisha as a wife – good political stratagem (italics and insertion mine)], gave Ten ethical Commandments to his military officers before sending them to a war against the disbelievers; Abu Bakr said: "I command you ten things. Do not kill women or children or an aged, infirm person. Do not cut down fruit-bearing trees. Do not destroy an inhabited place. Do not slaughter sheep or camels except for food. Do not burn bees and do not scatter them. Do not steal from the booty, and do not be cowardly." [Professor Dr. Ibrahim Khalil, Prof. of Clinical and Chemical Pathology, Head (ex-) of Clinical Microbiology and Infection Control Unit, Ain-Shams University. Cairo, Egypt]

I would suggest that Moses is important to the Koran and Mohammed for two reasons. First it is an obvious attempt to give Mohammed a long legacy of legitimacy, especially when he spent years trying to convince the Jewish tribes of Medina that he was a prophet. Second, when the Jews rejected Mohammed, and with the various Arab tribes of Median engaged in spiritual and social conflict, Mohammed would have imitated Moses – consciously I believe – in unifying the state with the theological. This would have been the only method to create a communal and organized Arab state. The use of the ten words by the Arabs is significant as well. Moses' commandments on Mt. Sinai were not merely the effusion of an ethical program. The 10 words and the initiation by this decrees, of Moses as the undisputed leader of both the church and the state would have made a profound and obvious impression on Mohammed.  Moses in my view was the template for Mohammed, in which both the church and state were unified in a political leader, and would remain so, until the teachings of Christ, which demanded a separation of church and state – a demand that Islam has never accepted, preferring the Old Testament claim that spiritual authority must be combined with state authority.

We will never know perhaps the extent to which Moses influenced Mohammed. Mohammed was an illiterate [though some dispute this], and oral traditions are prone to exaggeration and myth making. But Mohammed's career has parallel's with the life of the fighting-fleeing-politically astute Moses. Mohammed's activities included the raiding of caravans, warring, leading expeditions, killing, the buying and selling of slaves, the unbridled concubinage, and the accumulation of vast amounts of wealth, as well as political and spiritual leadership. It is clear that he must have used a template to guide his activities – almost all leaders are formed by templates and examples. In this vein, one can say that the only true innovation brought by Mohammed into Arab life was to copy the deeds of Moses and unify disparate and argumentative tribes around monotheism and in the face of a common enemy [Jews, Mecca, Unbelievers].

Moses and Mohammed ? Maybe it is too much to draw parallels between two men who were as divergent as they were similar. But maybe not. The Koran is fascinated by the life and career of Moses. My feeling is that Mohammed consciously followed the program as laid out by Moses – and did so as successfully, if not more successfully than the ancient Hebrew politician.

 

 


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