Highlighted Passages from Karen Armstrong's -Islam-A Brief History- (1).pdf

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16.Karen Armstrong back. Muhammad scrupulously helped with the chores, mended his own clothes and sought out the companionship of his wives. He often liked to take one of them on an expedi-tion, and would consult them and take their advice seriously. On one occasion his most intelligent wife, Umm Salamah, helped to prevent a mutiny. The emancipation of women was a project dear to the Prophet's heart. The Quran gave women rights of inheritance and divorce centuries before Western women were accorded such status. The Quran prescribes some degree of segrega-tion and veiling for the Prophet's wives, but there is nothing in the Quran that requires the veiling ofallwomen or their seclusion in a separate part of the house. These customs were adopted some three or four generations after the Prophet's death. Muslims at that time were copying the Greek Chris-tians of Byzantium, who had long veiled and segregated their women in this manner; they also appropriated some of their Christian misogyny. The Quran makes men and women part-ners before God, with identical duties and responsibilities.12 The Quran also came to permit polygamy; at a time when Muslims were being killed in the wars against Mecca, and women were left without protectors, men were permitted to have up to four wives provided that they treat them all with absolute equality and show no signs of favouring one rather than the others.13 The women of the firstummahin Medina took full part in its public life, and some, according to Arab custom, fought alongside the men in battle. They did not seem to have experienced Islam as an oppressive religion, though later, as happened in Christianity, men would hijack the faith and bring it into line with the prevailing patriarchy. In the early years at Medina there were two important de-velopments. Muhammad had been greatly excited by the prospect of working closely with the Jewish tribes, and had even, shortly before thehijrah,introduced some practices
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20.Karen Armstrong rected the campaign against him, and had launched two major offensives against the Muslims in Medina. His object was not simply to defeat theummahin battle, but to annihilate all the Muslims. The harsh ethic of the desert meant that there were no half-measures in warfare: if possible, a victorious chief was expected to exterminate the enemy, so theummahfaced the threat of total extinction. In 625 Mecca inflicted a severe de-feat on theummahat the Battle of Uhud, but two years later the Muslims trounced the Meccans at the Battle of the Trench, so called because Muhammad protected the settle-ment by digging a ditch around Medina, which threw the Quraysh, who still regarded war rather as a chivalric game and had never heard of such an unsporting trick, into confu-sion, and rendered their cavalry useless. Muhammad's second victory over the numerically superior Quraysh (there had been ten thousand Meccans to three thousand Muslims) was a turning point. It convinced the nomadic tribes that Muham-
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