– By Dr. Mims Mobley –
Hamas Muslims and Israelis have been hurling ordnance at each other again, and in Syria and Iraq, fanatical Muslims of ISIS are a threat to the lives of all, even other Muslims, who do not convert to their radical views regarding Islam. It’s not new.
Some 2000 years before Christ was Abraham – Patriarch of the Jewish, Christian and Islamic faiths. Genesis tells about him, his wife Sarah, her servant Hagar who bore Abraham his first son Ishmael, and then later Sarah having Isaac. The Old Testament is the history of the descendants of Isaac and it tells of how Joshua, Gideon, David and others defended the monotheistic Hebrews who worshipped the God of Abraham in a realm inhabited by tribes who still worshipped multiple gods and were quick to kill. In the New Testament Jesus brings the “good news” for a better world under the same God, counseling “love thy neighbor.”
All the while, the descendants of Ishmael, banished by Sarah to the desert to become what some writers call the first Bedouin Arab, roamed the arid lands, holding to the old ways of anger, killing and bowing to multiple gods. In the 6th Century AD, Muhammad, Prophet to his followers, sought to turn them to the God of his forebear Abraham and to change somewhat the restive ways among Arabs. During his lifetime, he succeeded to a great extent. Today, the monotheism he taught has held, but sectarianism over the centuries sent Middle East fanatics, who want to impose their brand on all others, back to the old ways of hate and killing.
The death of Muhammad in 632 AD brought to Islam the task of choosing his successor. He had decreed that he would be the last Prophet and thereafter the leader would be called Caliph. Abu Bakr, who was Muhammad’s best friend and adviser and father of his third wife Aisha, was named Caliph. But there had been strong backing for Ali Talib, Muhammad’s first cousin and the husband of Fatima, Muhammad’s daughter by his first wife Khadijah, and that group felt that they had been wronged. Two major Muslim sects ensued – Sunni and Shia.
Abu Bakr died in 634 AD after being Caliph for only two years, having named his successor, Umar, his close friend who helped secure for him the First Caliphate. Umar was Caliph for 10 years. with Islam spreading to include Syria and Persia. In 644 AD dissenting Persians assassinated Umar who had not named a successor but had named six most suited who should choose from among themselves Islam’s third Caliph. Ali Talib was among the six but again was passed over with Uthman being named Caliph. During his twelve year tenure, Islamism was extended to what is now Morocco, Pakistan, Armenia and Azerbaijan. Unrest in Egypt and Basra over Uthman’s nepotism led to his assassination in 656 AD, after which Ali Talib became the fourth Caliph. He led a house divided as kinsmen of Uthman who were governors of Egypt and Syria refused to give up their posts with civil war the outcome. In 661 AD, Ali was assassinated. The first three Caliphates established the Sunni view while the fourth was of the Shia.
So it continued to be and still is: the enmity between Shia and Sunni, both spurning modernity while embracing the awesome killing power of modern weaponry. During the Crusades and under Osama bin Laden, focus changed to killing infidels, but Islamic sectarianism really never left center stage in the Middle East, and now there’s ISIS too. Mistrust and hatred appear to be on the rise with plenty of oil money in the region to fan the flames.
And it all might have begun 4000 years ago when two half-brothers, who possibly hardly knew each other, were separated.