The Cyber-Cave

Reflections on the political, technological, cultural and economic trends of the world


“Crush these stupid Iranians” (King Khalid of Saudi Arabia to Saddam Hussein)


Muhammad ‘ṣalla Allāhuʿalayhi wa sallam’ (570, Mecca – 632, Medina) is considered to be the last prophet for ‘the people of the Book’.
The Shahada (the Islamic faith declaration) recites: “There is no god but God. Muhammad is the messenger of God”.

The pre-Islamic Arabic tribes were mostly pagan. Mecca was a city where it was believed the likes of Adam and Abraham had built sanctuaries. The pre-Islamic period is called ‘al-jāhiliyyah’ (the age of ignorance).
Mecca had the Kaba as a special attraction.
Muhammad was from the Quraysh tribe. The Quraysh tribe was founded by Qusayy (5th Century BC) who collected taxes from the people of Mecca to organise the logistics (food, water delivery) for the pilgrims.

Muhammad gave his daughter Fatimah to Ali for gratitude since Ali’s father, Abu Talib (Muhammad’s uncle), had taken care of him when he was an orphaned child.
Muhammad’s first wife wife Khadījah bint Khuwaylid conceived Fatimah. Shiites believe that the Shi’ite imams are descendants of the prophet from either Fatimah or Ali.
When he was forty and while he was praying in a cave near Mecca, the archangel Gabriel revealed to him the words of Allah (the collection of such revelations is the Quran). Muslims believe these revelations continued for 23 years.
The Ramadam commemorates the first revelations of Angel Gabriel to Muhammad.
Waraqh, a cousin of Khadijah, a Christian and the cousin of Kadijah reassured Muhammad that his witnessing of Gabriels’ revelations were alike those of the great prophets of the past like Moses.
Mohammed started preaching in Mecca.
Khadijah, Abu Bakr, Ali and Zayd ibn al-Harith were the first to support Mohammed after his contacts with Angel Gabriel.
Prominent members of the Arabic tribes refused to endorse Mohammed’s monotheism because they feared that with monotheism the revenues from the flux of pagan pilgrimages to Mecca would disappear.
One night, while sleeping, Mohammed experienced the ‘Nocturnal Ascent’: Angel Gabriel carried Mohammed to Jerusalem and then to the heavens where he met the most important prophets and received instruction by God on how much to pray daily.

Due to tensions in Mecca, Mohammed completes the Hijra in 622 and reaches Medina. Mohammed builds the first mosque.
Mohammed draws up the ‘constitution of Medina’ and calls for the return of a purer primordial monotheism.

In medina, Mohammed preaches:
“Permission to fight is granted to those against whom war is made, because they have been wronged, and God indeed has the power to help them. They are those who have been driven out of their homes unjustly only because they affirmed: Our Lord is God” (Quran 22:39–40).
This is the justification that war can be launched against the idolatrous members of the Quraysh tribe.
Mohammed and his companions begin to raid caravans of the Quraish.
In 624, Mohammed and his followers defeat the Quraysh in the battle of Badr. Mohammed calls ‘martyrs’ his companions that died in the battlefield.
However the muslims lose the battle of Uhud- the Quran verse 3:152 seems to suggest that the muslims lost because Allah was testing their faith and because some of the muslims are not desiring the ‘Hereafter’, but the world.
The Muslims will then win the Battle of the Ditch with the help of the firstly converted Persian Salman al-Farsi who taught the Arabs how to build military ditches.
It was discovered that the Qurayzah, a Jewish tribe of Medina, conspired with the enemy (the Quraysh). As a result, the Qurayzah men were killed while women and children were enslaved.
Mohammed’s companions make a al-bay’ah (allegiance) to declare their loyalty to the prophet (this rite is important for Sufis).
In 629 Mohammed’s forces capture Khaybar and impose the Jizyah on the ‘People of the Book’. Then Mohammed returns to Mecca and many more Meccans embrace the monotheism that he is preaching. Mohammed asks for the removal of ‘idol’ sites in Mecca.

During the ‘rightly guided’ caliphs, Islam expanded very quickly to North Africa, the Arabic peninsula and Persia. It was a time when the Byzantine and Sasanian empires were exhausted by prolonged military confrontations.
-Abu Bakr. He persuaded many friends to convert to Islam (such as Uthman). He is the first ‘caliph’ (successor).  Abu Bark was elected after a ‘shura’ (community consultation). Hadiths suggest that a political reign should be a caliphate that follows the guidance of prophethood.
-Umar: Pact of Umar for the protection of Christians after the conquering of today’s Syria: no new churches; no reconstruction of destroyed churches in Muslim quarters; no public manifestation of Christianity; Reverence such as “We shall rise from our seats, when they wish to seat”. In a televised speech the acting President of Egypt (after the coup against Morsi) Mansour addressed the Copts and mentioned the Umar Pact.
-Uthman was assassinated by a Khawarij. Khawarij had a ‘takfiri’ approach and opposed any form of political rule derived by human beings.
-Ali is assassinated in 661. The two sons Hasan and Huseyn are denied the role as caliphs. Hassan is poisoned in 670 by Muawiyah (the first Umayyad caliph), while Huseyn is killed in 680 in the battle of Karbala against the Umayyads since he did not give his pledge of allegiance to the new caliph Yazid. The Battle of Karbala is the beginning of the split in Islam.

UMAYYAD CALIPHATE  (Damascus will become the capital)
-Muawiyah I

-With the support of Shia arabs and Persians, the Abbasids defeat the Umayyad dynasty. The Abbasids used Abu Muslim as a Persian agent to create unrest in Khorasan.
-The Abbasids adopted elements of Persian culture (the vizir in the court, the ‘dabiran’ secretaries, the Barmakids for land taxes and cultural patronage). The Persians defended their identity under the shuʿūbiyyah movement to make sure Islamic reign was multi-ethnic (to protect the rights of the ‘mawali) and not discriminating in favour of the Arabs.
-Bernard Lewis: “Iran was indeed Islamized, but it was not Arabized. Persians remained Persians.”
-Baghdad becomes the capital of the caliphate and a cultural centre.
Between the 1037 and 1194 Persia is occupied by the Seljuk Turks.
-In 1258 the Mongols sacked Baghdad.

1802 Saudis-Wahabis destroy the sites of Karbala and Najaf, and the tomb of Husayn Ibn Ali. This is because Wahabis oppose ‘idolatry’ (shirk).
1925: The Saudis-Wahabis demolish important burials and shrines for the shia like the Al-Baqi site. Ibrahim, the son of Muhammad, was buried there
1987: more than 400 shia pilgrims die in Mecca due to clashes with Saudi security guards. The pilgrims were apparently instructed by Khomeini to deliver political messages and chants like “Death to America! Death to the Soviet Union! Death to Israel!”.



The Quran (‘the recitation’) is the sacred book of Islam. It was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad from the angel Gabriel.
The Quran is considered by the Muslims as the direct words of Allah.

Mutzaili vs i’jaz

Allah is described as an omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient divinity who can inspect the hearts of men and see if their faith is genuine or not- Allah is described as a divinity that will harshly punish sinners (‘unbelievers’) in the afterlife. There will be a Daj of judgement. Allah does not like vainglorious people and people too much preoccupied with vanities. Good muslims will be rewarded immensely.

Sura 4:34 says that “Men are protectors and maintainers of women”. Men can ‘beat’ women if they are disloyal.
“Let those fight in the cause of Allah who sell the life of this world for the hereafter. To him who fights is the cause of Allah – whether he is slain or gets victory – soon shall we give him a reward” (4:74). 4:75 invites to fight against the ‘oppressors’.
“Those who believe fight in the cause of Allah, and those who reject fight in the cause so evil: so fight you against the friends of Satan” (4:76)
In 4:89 the phrase “seize them and slay them wherever you find them” refers to the hypocrites that have left the Islamic faith and joined other ranks.
4:95 Allah ranks better believers that join fights in the cause of Allah rather than those sitting at home.
4:101 disbelievers are always potential enemies (though previous verses suggest peace treaties are tolerated by Allah).
Jews are accused of ‘iniquity’ because of practicing usury.
Jesus did not die in the Cross.
4:171 the word ‘trinity’ should not be used, because God is one.

Christians and Jews are ‘People of the Book’, yet they are wrong. In Sura 5 saying that Jesus is son of God is considered to be a blasphemy.


The holiest shrine is the Ka’bah (Adam’s stone)


-The sunni and shia have different collections of sayings by the prophet Mohammed. Sunni believe these sayings were transmitted by Ibn al-Bass and A’isha, while the Shiites only accept the sayings from the members of the Prophet’s household (ahl al-bayt).
-For the Sunnis following the ‘Sunnah’ is enough. Instead, the shia believe that the ‘light’ (nur) or divine guidance (esoteric knowledge) of Muhammad continued through the 12 Imams hence also the knowledge of the 12 imams is needed.
-Shias have a much more structured hierarchical ulema rather than sunnis who emphasise the equality between Muslims (imams are simply those leading the prayers, while Mufti are religious jurists). Since the Iranian Revolution, a “seven-degree hierarchy was established: ṭalabah (student), thiqat al-Islām (title formerly given to higher-ranking mujtahids), ḥujjat al-Islām, ḥujjat al-Islām wa al-muslimīn, āyatullāh, āyatullāh al-ʿuẓmā, and nāyib-i imām (lieutenant of the imam)”. [2]
-The Sunni believe Abu Bakr was correctly elected as the successor to Muhammad, while the Shia believe that Ali should have been the successor (they believe the hadith of the pond of khumm justifies such view)
-According to the Sunni the Prophet Mahdi will come to correct the practice of Islam, while the Shia believe that Madhi is already born and that he disappeared in a cave in 878. Shia believe in his Occultation and that one day he will return with Jesus to bring justice to the world.
-The Shia remember Husayn’s death at Karbala with the Ashura Day


Sufis believe Muhammad was the perfect saint (wali) and that from him all the chains (silsilah) of sufi orders emerged.
The first creation of Allah was the Light (nur) of Muhammad.
Sufis pray to dream Muhammad.
Sufis try to emulate the sober lifestyle of Muhammad.
Sufis mystics believe that once one has achieved the ‘al-fana’ (dissolution of the self) from any material form or desire, one can then concentrate in obtaining the ‘baqa’ (subsistence) of God. The state of baqa is state of pure calm because the individual is freed from material concerns and can contemplate God.
QURAN: “All things in creation suffer ‘annihilation’ and there remains the face of the Lord in its majesty and bounty” (55:26–27)
Dhikr: the practice of reciting aloud or in the mind certain prayers.

Khurqani: God is in the heart, not in the stones of a mosque.
Omar Khayyam
Rumi on duality
Ibn Arabi


Sufi sees God in altruistic acts.
Sufi see the world as a reflection of God. Human beings have both ‘paradise’ (joy) and ‘hell’ attributes (bad desires)

Bayazid three signs of God loving someone: generous like the sea, joyful like the sun and humble like the Earth.
Veil is synonymous with the material world concealing something
Wine is a metaphor of mystical experience.
Sufi saints are known as ‘Wali’.

Attar: why do you worship the shrines of the saints and not their actions?
Fana (end of the ego) means baga (coexistence with God).

-Nasr Abu Zayd (1943-2010): his academic works on the philology of the Quran were widely rejected and banned. Zayd believed the Quran text was subject to change and that aql (‘intellect) should be used to read it, rather than accepting literal interpretations.
For instance he questioned the jizyah tax, the ownership of slave girls, the existence of jinns (genies). Zayd was rejected as a Professor at the Cairo University, he was condemned of apostasy and a local court declared his marriage to be ‘null’ because his wife should not be married with an ‘apostate’. Nasr Abu Zayd left Egypt and went to the Netherlands.
-Farag Foda: a secular intellectual accused of being an apostate (by the Al-Azhar ulema), he was assassinated.
-Naguib Mahfouz: nobel prize winner in literature in 1988, almost fatally assassinated after being accused of being an apostate due to his ‘Children of Gebelawi’ novel.



-Velayat al-faqih: rule by cleric jurisprudence
-Marja taqlid: someone to imitate due to his religious examples
-Marg bar Amrika
-Mustazafin: the oppressed
-Taqiyya: concealment of one’s religious views is allowed if it is needed to avoid religious persecution
-Istishhad: heroic death (Shia refer to Hussain ibn Ali in the Battle of Karbala).
-Ismah: pious mulims can achieve ‘infallibility’ like Mohammed and his family.
-Ahl al-Bayt: Fatimah, Ali, Hasan (son of Ali), Husayn (younger son of Ali). And also the ‘Fourteen infallibles’ (Muhammad, Fatimah and the Twelve imams).


Rafidi: ‘rejectionists’ (how Sunnis call shias)
Fitna (civil war): a word Sunnis use when accusing shias

-Mushrikin: polytheist
-Murtaddin: people who become apostate
-Kuffar: infidel
-Scholars of misguidance
-Islam, jizyah, or war
-Safawi: a way to call shias
-Criticism of the imamah
-Tawaghit: (rebellion against God for the sake of other ‘idols’)
-Harbi: a non-Muslim that is believed to be hostile to the muslims. Dar al-Harb is considered to be the ‘Territory of War’ because the non-muslims living there do not have a treaty of non-aggression with the muslims. Islamic jurists derive this concept from the early history of Islam when the Persians and the Byzantines were told to either convert or face a war.
-Often mentioned verses or episodes:
Sword verses (9:5);
hadith “The Messenger of Allah [SAW] said: ‘I have been commanded to fight the people until they say La ilaha illallah.”
hadith “Fight those who do not believe in Allah or in the Last Day and who do not consider unlawful what Allah and His Messenger have made unlawful and who do not adopt the religion of truth from those who were given the Scripture – [fight] until they give the jizyah willingly while they are humbled”
Permission by Mohammed to assassinate the jewish poet Abu al-Huqayq who financed the pagans against Mohammed and also wrote poetry to mock Mohammed.
Ali narrated that Mohammed said that “A believer is not to be killed [in retribution] for [the killing of] a kafir”.
Hadith “And if they break their oaths after their covenant and defame your religion, then fight the leaders of kufr, for indeed, they have no covenant; [fight them that] they might cease”
Fitnah: rebellion
Imam Ibn Taymiyyah
Crusader nations
Muhammad’s destruction of the 360 idols in Mecca
Hadiths and Quranic verses where Mohammed suggests not to take Christian or Jews as allies.
Jews and Christians do shirk because Jews believe Uzayr (Ezra?) is the son of God, while the Christians believe Isa (Jesus) is the son of God.
-Sharia of the taghut
-Dhimma contract
-Dar al-Islam
-Land of the Khalifah
-Istishhad: martyrdom
-Wahy: revelation
-Tawhid: oneness of God
-Sahwah: Iraq’s Awakening Councils made of Sunni (mostly from Anbar Province) that fought against Al-Qaeda along with the USA.
-Nusayriyyah. Ibn Nusayr was a persian theologian of the 9th Century- he claimed he was the ‘door’ (bab) to access the divinity of the infallible imams. More specifically the door to the eleventh imam Al-Askari, since during his lifetime the tenth imam (al-Hadi) had died. Ibn Nusayr lived in today’s Iraq and legends say he had special powers. Alawites believe Ali was a manifestation of God like Adam and Jesus. They also believe in the Trinity, reincarnation and they use wine in certain rites alike Christians.


IDF forces in Israel use an algorithm to check which Palestinians could potentially participate in a ‘stabbing intifada’. The algorithm checks the data of social media users, more specifically it seeks to detect particular words such as ‘sword of Allah’ or ‘day of the sword’. ‘Sword of Allah’ refers to Muhammad’s companion and general Khalid ibn al-Walid. Khalid belonged to the Quraysh tribe of Mecca. He led his forces successfully in the Ridda Wars to fight Arabian tribes opposed to submitting to Mohammed’s creed, he also repeatedly defeated Byzantine and Persian forces. Khalid is particularly known for his victory at the Yarmouk (636) thanks to which the Arabs took control of the Levant. He also participated in the conquest of Damascus and Jerusalem. According to an hadith, Mohammed reportedly described Khalid as the “Sword amongst the Swords of Allah”. ‘Day of the Sword’ may refer to the ninth sura in which there is an invitation to kill the pagans.
The ninth sura is called the ‘Repentance’ and some verses show that Allah is open to forgiveness- however the ninth sura is the only sura not containing the basmala (the basmala is the recurring phrase “In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful”.
The ninth sura is one of the last suras to be recited by Mohammed during his staying in Medina. The absence of the basmala may have to do with Mohammed’s dismay at the pagans conducting a tawaf (walking around) at the Kaba in the Hajj season (Mohammed’s was particularly concerned about pagans doing the tawaf naked).

-Quran translated in English by Abdullah Yusuf Ali.
[2] ‘Ayatollah’ – Oxford Islamic Studies.

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