Sunday, April 26, 2009

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Suffering through the Koran – Sura 8 named 'The Spoils of War'

Oh what a surprise – the Koran does mention war, plunder, death......[must be the bad translation]

by Ferdinand III

Islamo-apologists and their academic-media friends must gnash their teeth whilst reading this Sura. Apparently in post-modern cant, the Koran is a long litany of peace, love, tolerance, spiritual meditation, insights into mental health, and a co-operative roadmap to living. Then again maybe it isn't. Any 'holy' book which takes time to write down, in excited detail, how to divide up plunder, gold, booty, and items taken in conflict, is probably not the most peaceful of ideologies - especially when Mohammed is the greatest beneficiary of war taken largesse. It is doubtful that some divine spirit would deign to tell humans how to divide up stolen capital.

[Note: This sura is taken from 'The Holy Quran', translated by Abdullah Yusuf Ali, reprinted in 1995, Goodword Books. Regarded as one of the best translations from Arabic to English of the Koran.]

The first verse pretty much summarises the contradictions and limitations inherent in all of the Koran and which makes reading it such a painful exercise in self-loathing:

“They ask you concerning (things taken as) spoils of war. Say: “(Such) spoils are at the disposal of Allah and the Messenger: so fear Allah, and keep straight the relations between yourselves: obey Allah and His Messenger, if you do believe.”

Well that is mostly clear – sort of. Allah – what ever that is – and his interpreter Mohammed will decide who gets what from the spoils of caravan raiding, Jew killing, Christian annihilation and general expansive warfare. What is less clear is who 'They' and 'you' are. 'They' are most likely the general followers of Mohammed and 'You' is probably a devout true believer. But who knows. It is an odd way of writing, presenting a question in a 3rd person, independent of context, done perhaps to try and prove that the verse was given to Mohammed by Allah and that the great Messenger is not to blame for enriching himself with plunder.

The crux of the Sura and the point that Mohammed wishes to makes appears only in verse 41 – after the usual cries to smite unbelievers, and submit to Allah:

41. And know that the out of all the booty that you may acquire (in war), a fifth share is assigned to Allah, - and to the Messenger, and to near relatives, orphans, the needy, and the wayfarer, -

How convenient and nicely advertised. So Mohammed the great messenger of the mysterious but omniscient Allah, receives 40% of all the plunder. Some of it goes to charity and to poor relief which serves as a nice disguise since the rest one assumes, goes into the burgeoning pockets of the 'great' man and his family. What a great scam.

Of course a divine spirit would ordain the disposition of war booty in such a way. Of course. Just believe.

Importantly it does not matter how this wealth through raiding or warring is taken or when. Warring during times of peace, or which broke agreements or covenants, or which occurred during Ramadan was forbidden in ancient Arabia – until Allah came along.
69.But (now) enjoy what you took in war, lawful and good: but fear Allah: for Allah is Oft-forgiving, Most Merciful.

So now thanks to the all merciful male deity, warring at any time, for any reason, in any season and no matter what agreements are broached, is fine. As long as is it in done in the name of Allah. Since Allah sanctions it, the Muslim plunderer may enjoy the spoils – or perhaps in the case of this Sura, Mohammed is the one to enjoy the benefits of such spoils. Only Allah knows who 'you' might be in this verse.

Plunder, rapine and gold were key attractions for early followers of Mohammed. But Mohammed the political-military leader was clear that he and his family were dominant. Arabs and specifically Mohammed's tribe and family seem most important to Allah – as given in the division of spoils and in this statement: Sura 75. “But kindred by blood have prior rights against each other in the Book of Allah.” Again this is a badly written sentence – but it exalts the tribe and family as first among Muslim equals and is preceded by: “And those who accept Faith subsequently, and adopt exile, and fight for the Faith in your company, - they are of you.” In other words unbelievers who embrace Islam and fight to expand it, are a part of the Umma or Muslim community. But they are still inferior to the blood monarchy of Mohammed's family and tribe.

It is rather fascinating that a divine being is so keely interested in the welfare of Mohammed and his relatives. This does seem rather odd to an objective observer. Since when does a 'God' play favorites and enrich one person and his family ? Only 'Allah' knows.

But to cover up his rather greedy 40% share of the spoils and the fact that it is his family which is primus inter pares [so much for the post modern wail that Islam preaches equality], Mohammed falls back on telling Muslims to fear the mysterious Allah. He is after all only taking orders ! This is done to assure everyone that it is actually Allah which is divising the division of earthly riches taken in war and raiding, and it is the benevolent Allah – not Mohammed – which feels so inclined to enrich and ennoble Mohammed and his blood relations at the expense of everyone else:

14. Thus (it will be said): “You taste then of the (punishment): for those who resist Allah, is the penalty of the Fire.”

20. O you who believe ! Obey Allah and his Messenger, and do not turn away from him when you hear (him speak).

27. O you that believe ! do not betray the trust of Allah and the Messenger,...

Just to make sure that Muslims understand the power of Allah, Mohammed makes the claim that it was the divine power of Allah which allowed Muslims to win their conflicts and destroy their enemies and that whatever Allah decrees must be followed – including the division of profits made through war which made Mohammed and his family quite rich indeed:

Sura 9. Remember you implored the assistance of your Lord, and He answered you. “I will assist you with a thousand of the angels ranks on ranks.”

17. It is not you who slew them; it was Allah: when you threw (a handful of dust), it was not your act, but Allah's: in order that He might rest the Believers by a gracious trial from Himself: for Allah is He Who hears and knows (all things).

26. Call to mind when you were a small (band), despised though the land......He provided a safe asylum for you....

Not only did Allah protect and safe keep Muslims and their desires for power, but he is very interested in spreading Islamic theology by war and conquest. In fact it is a duty. Muslims must follow the Messenger and fight to spread the divine power of the almighty Allah:

39. And fight them on until there is no more tumult, or oppression, and there prevail justice and faith in Allah altogether and everywhere, but if they cease, verily Allah sees all that they do.

65. O Messenger! rouse the Believers to the fight. If there are twenty amongst you, patient and persevering, they will vanquish two hundred:....

67. It is not fitting for a Messenger that he should have prisoners of war until He has thoroughly subdued the land.

Campaigns to spread Islam by war are sanctioned by Allah, and are necessary since the Unbelievers are non-humans, destined for Hell. This is the language of supremacism:

55. For the worse of beasts in the sight of Allah are those who reject Him: they will not believe.
37. In order that Allah may separate the impure from the pure, put the impure, one on another, heap them together, and cast them into Hell.


Only an academic or media writer would find the above to be allusions of peace and tolerance. This Sura is pretty clear and its intent by Mohammed obvious. Warring and plunder are ordained by Allah. It is a duty for Muslims to fight to spread Mohammed's creed. Allah has decided that Mohammed will receive 20% or more of the booty. Muslims should accept this, as they should accept their duty to kill the unbelievers where-ever they appear, and spread Islam by war, and force, with unstinting faith that this 'Allah' supports them with divine power, angels and blessing.

Is this not a complete absurdity ? War, supremacism, dividing up of spoil, blood ties reigning supreme and some mysterious divine agent, sanctioning it all. Is it not obvious that this Sura and the Koran are writings outlining a plan of ideological imperialism and control ? Why is this considered therefore to be 'holy'?

Maybe a Western PhD student in post modern studies can explain it all.