The Tale of Two Conversions – 14 Centuries Apart
13 Sep, 2006
- When confronted about her acceptance of a religion which inspired the gravest civilian tragedy on her countrymen that killed nearly 3000 innocent people, including so many of her own relatives, Safia replied:
“It didn’t really matter who did it. I just never hated Islam. I never hated Muslims. For me to be angry about what happened to the twin towers would be like me hating all the Germans that killed the Jews.”
She does not care. She need not care about the viciousness, if any, inherent in this religion that might have inspired 9/11 causing a great personal tragedy to herself, too. It is irrelevant to her. She just loves this religion. She says:
“I just felt like God was there,” she said, recalling her visit to a mosque during the call for prayer. “I said, 'This is it. I believe there is only one God. His name is Allah, and his messenger is Mohammed.’”
This incredible conversion of Elizabeth and her nonchalant disregard for the nearly 3000 innocent victims of the 9/11 attack, including the death of her close relatives, finds a parallel (another Jewish man’s conversion), which goes 14 centuries backward right into the days of the Prophet of Islam.
The Prophet of Islam, seeing no hope of success in converting the confederates of his ancestral city of Mecca, sent the handful of his converts to Medina. A couple of months later, he himself arrived there on June 28, 622 CE to the warm welcome of nearly 150-200 of his converts both from Mecca and Medina. He settled down there without any opposition from the local Jewish and Pagan tribes, but instead, in a welcoming atmosphere.
Without any means to sustain the livelihood of so many of his charges, the Prophet soon started raiding highway caravans. Trade caravans, mainly from Mecca, used to pass through Medina, which the Muslims, under the command of Muhammad, started attacking both for avenging Meccans’ rejection of Islam as well as for capturing booty for making a living. The first raid took place in February 623, just 7 months after arriving in Medina. After a few such successful adventures, a raid on a Mecca caravan on 15th March, 624, resulted in the first major blood-letting confrontation, the Battle of the Badr. Muslims won this battle against an opposition force, which was nearly three times as strong. This stunning success boosted their confidence to go after anybody thereafter.
The following month (April, 624), a brawl broke out in the market place between Muslims and the Jewish men of the Banu Qainuqa clan over a Jewish man’s teasing of a Muslim woman. Under of excuse of this simple incidence, Muhammad attacked the Qainuqa tribe, the wealthiest tribe in Medina. The fact to be noted here is that the entire Qainuqa tribesmen had no knowledge of or complicity in the incidence. It was an individual prankster’s own action which commonly happens in any society even today.
After 15 days of siege of their enclave, the Jews surrendered. Muslims bound the surrendered Jews and were preparing for the mass-execution. But Abdullah ibn Obayi, a powerful leader of the Khazraj tribe, who is known as the greatest hypocrite in Islamic literatures, forcefully intervened. Prophet's biographer Ibn Ishaq notes of Abdullah's intervention: ‘By God’, he said, ‘would you cut down these seven hundred men in one morning?’, adding ominously, ‘I am a man that circumstances may change.’ Knowing that ibn Obayi was still a powerful leader, Muhammad relented and let the Qainuqa tribesmen go to exile to Syria with bare-minimum of their belongings .
According to Prophet’s biographers, about the same time, the prophet had permitted the Muslims to slay any Jews they encounter. In July 624, a prominent Jewish merchant, named Ibn Sunayna, happened to fall on the way of a Muslim convert, named Muheisa, from Sunayna’s own tribes. To execute the order of the Prophet, the Muslim man fell upon Sunayna and killed him .
Ibn Sunayna was not only a Jew of the same tribe, but also the Muslim assassin's elder brother Huweisa, still a Jew, was a good friend of Sunayna. When the elder brother confronted him for killing a friendly and innocent man of his own tribe, the Muslim man replied: “Verily, if the man who commanded me to kill that Jew also commands me to kill you, I would do so.” Biographer al-Waqidi writes, “Then the brother replied: ‘A religion which can drive a man so far must be an extraordinary religion’”. And immediately, he converted to Islam .
These stories give inkling about the circumstances of how the nascent religion of Islam took firm root in Medina and made inroad into the infidel tribes. Muheisa’s killing of Sunayna and the conviction to repeat the same on his own elder sibling also gives an idea about the virulent fanaticism Prophet Muhammad could incite amongst his neo-converts through his preaching.
However, how those incidences are relevant to the present case of Elizabeth’s conversion to Islam? The relevant point is the elder brother Huweisa’s instant conversion at the expression of his younger brother’s ruthless and fanatic zeal towards committing heartless slaughter of own sibling had the prophet commanded the same. The ruthless and barbaric attitude displayed by the younger sibling under the power of Islamic faith thoroughly impressed, indeed overwhelmed, the elder sibling so much so that he confessed to the Islamic faith instantly.
While comparing the conversion of Huweisa with that of Elizabeth, we must keep in mind the 14 centuries of civilizational progress including the stunning advancement made in the modern concept of universal humanism, human rights, equality and justice. Elizabeth, on a retreat to the Muslim heartland of Morocco, came across ear-splitting loud call to the Islamic prayer which created a mad rush amongst the faithful of Islam towards the mosque. The unfailing conviction and fanatic rush amongst the Muslims at the call of prayer, which Elizabeth never notice amongst her own Jewish faithfuls or the Christian faithfuls she has lived amongst for decades. This extraordinary conviction of the faithful to the commands of Islam overwhelms Elizabeth and she discovers the true God as did Huweisa 14 centuries ago. She says, “I just felt like God was there,” … “I said, 'This is it. I believe there is only one God. His name is Allah, and his messenger is Mohammed.’”
She need not care about the fanaticism of this religion that killed nearly 3000 innocent countrymen of her on 9/11. She even need not bother about eight of her own relatives killed on that fateful day which draws a perfect parallel to the Huweisa’s total disregard to his own good friend Sunayna’s totally unjustified and merciless killing moments earlier.
Elizabeth's conversion should be seen not in the context of 9/11atrocity alone. It must be seen in context of the whole lot of barbaric terrorist atrocities being committed by the Islamist terrorists all around the world on a daily basis. It should be seen in the light of Bali massacres (twice), the Madrid massacre, the London massacre, the Beslan massacre of innocent schoolchildren, the repeated barbaric massacres of innocent Hindus in India, the massacres in Thailand South, Algeria, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Kenya, Morocco, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh and many more. Elizabeth need not care about any of them; she does not have any interest to dig into why all these happens. In display of utterly callous insensitivity she declares, “It didn’t really matter who did it (9/11). I just never hated Islam. I never hated Muslims….”
Such is the overwhelming power of Islam in drawing converts through unabashed display of fanatic conviction and of conviction towards cruelty and barbarism. It happened 14 centuries ago at the dawn of Islam at the behest and incitement of the Prophet himself and that legacy continues today as exemplified in the conversion of Elizabeth and those numerous neo-converts rushing to the Jihadi trail to cause mass murder soon after stepping into the house of Islam. Fourteen long centuries have passed by, civilization has progressed much, world has changed immensely but Islam has changed very little, if at all.
Addendum by Mumin Salih:
I like the logic behind your articles and how you pick up observations, which many may not notice. Your essay stimulated me to think of the following:
- There might be some common abnormal psychological factor(s) that make Islam appeals to Muslim converts. Of the suicide and potential suicide bombers in Britain in the last two years, half a dozen of them were Muslim converts! Some of them only converted few months earlier.
- Islam tends to be more popular among prison inmates.
- Another interesting observation about converts is that Islam tends to appeal to women more than men! One would expect a normal woman to reject a cult that treats her as a possession of man. In Muslim countries, many oppressed Muslim women are most fanatics to that cult.
1. Ibn Hisham, p5453f; At-Tabari, I. 1360ff; Al-Waqidi, p92f. Ibn Sa’d, p19.
2. Ibn Hisham, p553f; At-Tabari, I. 1372; Al-Waqidi, p79f.
MA Khan is the editor of islam-watch.org and the author of Islamic Jihad: A Legacy of Forced Conversion, Imperialism and Slavery.