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Monotheism: Muhammad Vs Musaylimah

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Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, spent a restless and chaotically violent life with different types of challenges during his last 10 years of prophethood in Medina. Besides the tension between Ansar (locals of Medina who accepted Islam) and Muhajir (those who migrated with Muhammad from Mecca), the prophet of Islam had to fight continuously to suppress individual opponents and tribes of Arabia who refused to accept him as prophet or who ridiculed him.

The infighting among the followers of his immediate circle was also a serious concern for him at that time. In such an unstable situation, Muhammad could neither codify the Quran, nor select his successor definitely before his death. Uttering the words peace be upon him after mentioning the name of prophet of Islam is not without reason.

After the death of Muhammad in AD 632, the succession issue became fierce. Ultimately Abu Bakar, his father-in-law, became the first Caliph (the chief Muslim civil and religious ruler). Muhammad’s death also saw a large group of Muslims leaving Islam across Arabia. To contain the cohort of early converts to Islam from disintegration, Abu Bakar had to fight a series of wars in different parts of Arabia for about one year. He was successful in checking the rebellions and could consolidate the early Muslim community from disintegration. This series of wars is known as Ridda wars (Apostasy wars) in standard Islamic narrative.

There is doubt about whether Ridda wars were of religious or political nature. The so-called Rashidun Caliphate, just after the death of Muhammad, was very small in size covering a small stretch of land from Medina to Mecca, as well as, the area around Sa’na of present-day Yemen. In Ridda wars, a total of 16 wars were fought in different parts of Arabia of which, war of Yamamah was very important. In that war Abu Bakar’s commander defeated and killed Banu Hanifa’s chief Musaylimah, who during Muhammad’s lifetime declared himself a prophet. The success of Ridda wars brought the whole of peninsular Arabia under Muslim control.

But that success did not come so easily. Musaylimah with about 40,000 strong army twice defeated the army of Abu Bakar in Yamamah. Many Hafiz (memorizers of Quran) were said to have been killed in these two battles. Later, under the command of Khalid ibn al-Walid, Musaylimah could be defeated on the third attempt and killed. Musaylimah’s followers were located in and around Yamamah in Najd (Central area of Arabia), while Medina and Mecca were in Hajaz (Western area of Arabia). In standard Islamic narrative, Musaylimah has been portrayed negatively for obvious reasons.

During Muhammad’s lifetime, many Arab rebels declared themselves as prophets. And after the death of Muhammad, they raised their heads with assertion. Musaylimah was arguably the strongest contender of prophethood. He even demanded a share of prophet-hood directly from Muhammad when the latter was alive. It seems that during the first half of 7th century Arabia, declaring one as prophet of God was more of a means to gain political power than to answer any divine or spiritual call. Ultimately, it was the survival of the strongest.

Musaylimah was the son of Habib, of the tribe Banu Hanifa, one of the largest tribes of Arabia that inhabited the region of Najd. Musaylimah preached monotheism and his religion was referred to as Sadakiah.  He claimed to receive numerous revelations from God like Muhammad. He taught three daily prayers to God, facing any direction. He criticized Muslims for selecting the Ka’aba as the direction of prayers, arguing that God was not limited to one direction. Musaylimah declared that the Ka’aba was not the House of God, because an all-powerful God has no house.

Musaylimah said fasting should be at night instead of daytime during Ramadan. He prohibited circumcision. Musaylimah considered men and women equal, and allowed premarital sex. Musaylimah prohibited polygamy and cousin marriage. Musaylimah declared that any slave who converted to his religion would become free. Musaylimah stated that Iblis did not exist, because a fair and merciful God would not allow a being like Iblis to throw people into error. Musaylimah also said that it was wrong to include his name or any prophet’s name in worship to God.

It is believed that a few followers of Musaylimah survived at least till the 17th century. At the Mughal ruler Akbar’s council of religions, a discussion of Musaylimah’s religion also took place with the help of its priests. His teachings were almost lost but a neutral review of those does exist in a Persian book Dabestan-e-Mazaheb authored in 17th century.

Though both Muhammad and Musaylimah, as we know them today, are yet to be proved as historical figures, Musaylimah’s teachings apparently negated many aspects of Muhammad’s teachings. Had Musaylimah won the War of Yamamah, the course of Middle-Eastern religion would have been totally different and Sadakiah would have been a much more civilized and rational religion than what we face today after 1400 years.

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