The Genius of Muhammad

The Genius of Muhammad, by Amil Imani.

In order to understand Islam, we must understand its prophet, Muhammad. There were two Muhammads, with two characters. In Mecca, Muhammad preached and exhorted people to submit to Islam. In Medina, he used the threat of the sword to compel people to convert to Islam. …

For 13 years in Mecca he was a quiet failure:

He tried for thirteen long years in Mecca to peddle his religion. He was mild-mannered, spoke kindly about the Jews and even preached tolerance for other religions by statements such as lakom dinekom va leya al-deen (to you your religion and to me my religion). …

Not many people could get interested in his religion. He attracted only about 150 takers at a cost of huge amounts of ridicule and abuse.

He must have learned a lesson from his failure. The place was crowded with more gods and religions than he could count. Not too many people were beating the bushes in the deserts of Arabia looking for another god and another religion.

Life got to be so intolerable in Mecca that he had to beat a fast track out of town to Medina, accompanied by a small band of followers. …

He learned his lesson. He abandoned his Mecca sell strategy. It was a non-starter. …

Then he moved to Medina, changed strategy, and became a roaring success:

In modern terms, Muhammad did market research. He realized that he had to go with what people already wanted. He had to go with a new twist that capitalized on the deeply engrained belief, need, and practice of the people. It was a stroke of marketing genius.

What was the need? The Arabian Peninsula was home to dozens of widely dispersed tribes that were chronically at war with one another. A major source of livelihood for these tribes was to attack other tribes, defeat them, and take their possessions. Or to attack trading caravans, kill the proprietors and take the loot. …

But attacking other tribes to kill the men and take their possessions, including the women and children, to be retained or sold as slaves, was a very risky business indeed. The attackers would be liable to lose limbs and even life. Or they might be taken as slaves. There had to be some serious calculations taking place before a tribe would risk attacking another. Would a few camels, goats and some women and children would be worth the risk? That’s all there was in it. Put your life and limb on the line for the hope of some loot. The cost-benefit thing was a very troubling factor in deciding to attack and risk for the possible gain of some things.

Muhammad solved the problem with a stroke of genius. He observed that a significant number of relatively prosperous Jews lived in Medina. They certainly seemed like a very tempting target for exploitation. At first, he tried to convert them and get his cut — 20% or khoms that he demanded from each person. The Jews said, no thank you, we are not interested. …

Figuratively speaking, Muhammad found the perfectly receptive people to his message: the Arab idolaters. Those people, as I said earlier, were already deeply in the business of warring and looting. All Muhammad had to do was to sanction their practice and further sweeten the deal for them. …

He must have said something like this: …

“You know all about Allah, don’t you? He is that all-powerful, the all-present, the all-vengeful, and the all-everything. The one and only god, and there is no other god beside him. He is always present. You must have experienced his presence without actually seeing him. He follows you everywhere, shadows you closely in the wilderness, and watches and knows everything you do and say. He even knows what is in your heart.

“I am his emissary. Allah speaks to me. I have no choice. I am his vessel and his obedient slave. I am rasu-ul-allah (messenger of Allah).

“Allah says that there are two types of people in this world: those who worship other gods than him and those who are turning in adoration to him. He promises great torments for the kefir (unbeliever), both here and in the dreadful hell after they die. By contrast, he ordains for those who worship him and do his bidding great blessings in this life and gives them mansions in paradise after they die. ..

“The mighty Allah at long last has lost his patience with the unrepentant kefir and wants his believers to take action on his behalf and for his cause: jaahedoo fi sabil-ul-allah (make jihad for the cause of Allah), he commands. The earth was created by him, only for his followers and needs be cleansed from all who disbelieve in him. The disbelievers have no rights to anything whatsoever. They can either become obedient slaves of Allah or the believers are free to subjugate them and make them pay.”

“Subjugate them and make them pay” must have sounded like music to the already skilled plunderers-killers. It was a perfect case of finding an already existing need and filling it in a most appealing way. …

The warring, plundering Arabs were offered a deal they couldn’t refuse. They could attack, kill, and plunder the non-believers. By so doing, they would get the goods in this world, and if they didn’t, and lost limbs and life, it would be a small price to pay for doing Allah’s bidding and getting their ticket punched to the magnificent paradise.

Ever since that time in Medina, the battle cry of the Muslims the world over has been: no matter which side gets killed, Islam and Muslims win.

According to Islam, life is but a moment on a fistful of dust earth. It is Allah’s paradise which is priceless, and the faithful khaledoon fiha abada (reside in it forever).

And the rest is history. Muhammad’s system has now conquered a quarter of all humans alive, and is still true to its seventh century Arab roots. The greatest piece of marketing ever.

hat-tip Stephen Neil