The next few entries will look at the history of the Druzes and the Jews, whose histories are, as intertwined as, those of the Druzes and the Maronites.
A common ancestry ?
In this first account of the Jews, though it is tempting to begin with the rise of Zionism, which was enabled, throughout the 1800s, by the restructuring of the Ottoman empire. For the sake of pragmatism, the post will first explore the origins and Semitism and its relationship to the Arabs and the Jews.
Judaism, Christianity and Islam (in that order) are one God (monotheistic) or Abrahamic religions, which originate in the middle east. Abraham (pronounced as Ibrahim in most Arabic dialects) was born in Iraq and died in Palestine (remember these are present day place names). In true tradition Abraham’s family were nomadic herds-people, who settled, temporarily, in many regions, including Egypt. The Abrahamic lineage is referred to in the old testament and many of the stories are regarded as fable by religious cynics.
It is the sons of Abraham, who are said to be the propagators of monotheism. Arguments over Palestine, regarded as the ”promised” or ”holy” land stems from the mythology surrounding the birth and subsequent fate of the boys. Moses, the prophet, who received the ten commandments from God, is descended from Abraham’s son Isaac and Jesus Christ too is said to descend from Abraham, through the line of his adopted father Joseph. Hagar, an Egyptian slave and Abraham’s concubine, was cast out of the family, along with her son Ibrahim, when Abraham’s wife Sarah gave birth to Isaac, in her later years.
Mohammed, by his own admission is not a direct descendent of Abraham but follows the path of Ismail, who is said to have arrived, with his mother, in the region, that is now Saudi Arabia, the home of Mecca. (These events are documented in the various scriptures, composed at the time). It must be noted, that Mohammed received the word of God, who is purported to have been concerned about the distortion of his doctrine by the Christian faith.
Peter Mansfield writes, that Jews not only accept Islam as a legitimate Abrahamic belief but concede, that if it was not for the birth of Isaac, in such unusual circumstances, they would not have a claim to Palestine. He gives a comprehensive account of the relationship between the Jews, Christians and Muslims during the lifetime of Mohammed and during the days of the Caliphate (The Arabs, 1979).
Mr Mansfield’ explains, how the word Arab might be derived from ”a semitic root related to nomadism” .There are other explanations of the word’s origins but it is established, that the term Arab was applied to the peoples of the entire Gulf peninsular by the Greek historian Herodotus (referred to in a previous entry, in relation to the origins of the name Syria).
The Prophet Mohammed, a learning curve
Both Peter Mansfield and Karen Armstrong describe how the Jewish tribes in Medina (the Saudi Arabian city where Mohammed is buried), refused to accept Mohammed as a legitimate prophet, a disappointment as he was keen to align Islam to Judaism. Many of the smaller Jewish clans accepted him and versed him in the scriptures including the story of Ismael. Ms. Armstrong writes, it was the fact Ismael repaired the Ka’bah, the Mecca shrine, which was built by Adam (the first man), which caused Mohammed to believe the Arabs were always part of ”the divine plan”.
It was though, the theological differences between the Christians and the Jews, that inspired Mohammed to redirect prayers from Jerusalem to Mecca. He achieved this by asking his followers to physically turn away from Jerusalem and face Mecca during the qiblah (prayers) in order to disassociate from the sectarianism, that permeated Judaism and Christianity. For Mohammed this bold move symbolised his commitment to the purity of the Abrahamic doctrine.
You’ll realise I am cutting a very long story short as the inter-relationship between all three monotheist religions have undergone many changes over the centuries. I don’t want readers to think, that the rejection of Jerusalem described above means it holds no significance for Muslims. Mohammed was learning about a way of life, that he revered and one he imagined would bring stability to his people as well as improve their austere and difficult lives. See earlier entries.
Lastly, however you look at it, the middle east and the gulf had an active and entrenched population prior to the advent of industrialisation and monopoly capitalism. No-one denies the right of Jews to live in Palestine but that should pertain to the indigenous populace not to big western powers or their representatives, who seek strategic or economic advantage.
Next time the rise of Zionism
No to NATO!!
There will be a NATO summit held in Newport and Wales is none to pleased. We plan to oppose this debacle. If you are interested see www.nonatonewport.org for further info.