Much of what Uris wrote explains and answers in explicit detail many of the fundamental questions about Islam and the Muslim mindset that Americans and media have been seeking to understand for the past several days.
Like Christianity and Judaism, Islam was born of the desert. It arose in the latter part of the 6th century when an illiterate orphan named Mohammed had a revelation and began preaching to the downtrodden of
Uris described it this way in The Haj: “The belt of Islam held some of the planet’s worst land. It was that crushing part of the world where men could not beat the earth. Numbly they embraced Islam and its fatalistic outlook. Islam gave them something to grasp hold of in order to continue the struggle through life. This land bullied everyone who attempted to exist on it. So harsh, so brutalizing were the forces of nature that those people imprisoned upon it were convoluted into forming a society where cruelty was commonplace.”
Initially, Mohammed allied himself with Christians and Jews, but he was humiliated by his fellow Meccans. Even the uncle who raised him believed that Mohammed was insane.
Eventually, when visitors from
There was one thing Mohammed inherited in
Once again the words of Uris: “To an Arab, humiliation is the ultimate punishment.”
As time passed, Mohammed’s authority became increasingly appealing for the desert tribes of
According to Uris, “For a clan of Bedouin to give up their nomadic ways was akin to giving up their freedom. The Bedouin had been the original driving force behind Islam, for it was their men who had filled the ranks of Mohammed’s first armies and spearheaded the Moslem conquests. The Arabian peninsula, from which he sprang, had remained remote and beyond the grasp of the early conquests of
As Islam and Mohammed gained power, so too, did the cruelty of his believers.
One character in the novel is Major-General Orde Wingate, a real-life British Army officer who created special military units in
In a desert society where water was a rarity, it is not difficult to understand why a man might kill an outsider for taking water from his well to quench his thirst or water his camels.
Even with the endless discussions about the Arab spring and the hope it was supposed to bring to the region, the central character of The Haj, Haj Ibrahim, highlights precisely what has taken place in the
Such concepts are difficult for citizens of the West to grasp, but grasp we must. Without understanding the motivating factors that drive the Islamic societies of the
In another statement by another character in the novel, the highly intelligent Dr. Mudhil, elaborates, “We (Arabs) do not have to love one another and we have long ago lost that ability. It was so written twelve hundred years earlier. Hate is our overpowering legacy and we have regenerated ourselves by hatred from decade to decade, generation to generation, century to century. In ten, twenty, thirty years the world of Islam will begin to consume itself in madness. We cannot live with ourselves…we never have. We are incapable of change.”
Mohammed was the product of the desolate region he understood. He spoke to a frustrated, poor, uneducated society. As centuries passed, wars and conquests built the ever-growing Muslim society. Not necessarily because they were believers, but because the alternative was death.
In a span of 14 centuries there are countless Muslims who have embraced the faith without even knowing why. But those who are true believers, the radicals who adhere to the original teachings of Mohammed, are devoted in their cause and they will not be deterred.
Leon Uris got it right nearly three decades ago.
Peabod is Bob Taylor, owner of Taylored Media Services in
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