A Short Political Guide to the Arab World

A Short Political Guide to the Arab World

A Short Political Guide to the Arab World

A Short Political Guide to the Arab World

Excerpt

At the moment of his migration from Mecca to Medina in A.D. 622 Muhammad became the founder of a state as well as of a religion. The community of Muslim believers became a political society -- and it has continued to be so, in one form or another, until the present day.

That Muhammad should have been a political leader is explained not by personal ambition but by the nature of his revelation, and by the social conditions of seventh-century Arabia. In Muhammad's message the believers are a political unit; they live, fight and pray together. The society which he set out to reform was tribal, though at the same time urban and merchant. The imperatives dictated by a monotheistic God cut across the tribal morality which was the only morality Arabia knew. For the community of Muslim believers to exist side by side with the unbelievers was impossible; peace obtains within Islam and war obtains without. As long as he could, Muhammad lived in Mecca under the protection of such tribal leaders as would recognize him, but when their protection was withdrawn, his only course was to move, and to set up a non-tribal state. 'Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's' was for him an impossible doctrine, since the Arabian tribes did not make the distinction between public law and private conduct which lies behind that injunction. The primitive condition of social Arabia forced Muhammad -- in spite of the essentially religious content of his message -- into effecting a fusion or symbiosis of church and . . .

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