The Orphan Who Would Rule
570AD witnessed the birth of a young boy who would forever change the fate of the world. At that time, Christianity had a firm choke hold on society, and was spreading with a viral-like fervour, prospering throughout the world's nations. After the fall of the Roman empire, however, there was no bloodthirsty army left to hammer its message home, and this gave it a weakness which could be exploited.
The continuing pandemic effect that religion had upon the masses relied heavily upon eager swords and murderous minds, and Christianity really couldn't garner the same appeal without them. With Christianity in disarray, it was almost inevitable that someone would eventually step into the shoes of the Romans, with the same blood lust and lofty ambitions, to take up the mantle. That someone would be Muhammad.
So, what turned an innocent young boy into a murderous madman?
Imagine being an orphan. Now, picture having to live in an arid and harsh desert environment, being passed from one relative to the next, never gaining true acceptance within a family unit, half starved, and considered more of a hindrance than a help, weak and unable to fend or look out for yourself. What effect do you think it would have upon you psychologically? Surely you would crave attention, the need to feel wanted, admired even, and perhaps, given extreme circumstances, even wish to bring pain and suffering to those who wronged you. Do you believe you would develop some kind of personality disorder? Most psychiatrists would probably be inclined to say yes. Sadly, between the years of 570 and 632AD the modern interpretation of mental illness was unheard of, and psychiatry wouldn't come to fruition for a further 1176 years.
Indoctrination of the Weak
A teenage boy, unloved and undervalued, would provide easy prey for any preacher worth his salt, and this proved to be the case for young Muhammad. Whilst travelling from Mecca to Syria with Abu Talib, his merchant uncle, Muhammad came into contact with Bahira, a Nestorian monk. Bahira would not only show the boy kindness, but teach him everything he knew about his own Christian faith. As with all inductions into religion, the target of priestly affection is almost always the easily influenced. Show them love, compassion, and a deity with unyielding power, and you have them right where you want them. I'm convinced these people have a manual.
Armed with the tales of Noah, Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Jesus, and many other prophets who'd supposedly (and spuriously) encountered God, Muhammad, with his longing for social acceptance and acknowledgement, would create his own outlandish tales of divine and heavenly encounters, in an effort to appease his own ego-driven desires. Those who knew him, however–his fellow Meccans–weren't too easily fooled. Being polytheists (worshippers of the Ka'aba, and 360 different deities) the people of Mecca were quick to laugh, ridicule, and mock Muhammad, turning him into somewhat of a social pariah. Arabia, at the time, had its own religious doctrines which were considered fundamental to the prosperity of its many merchant travellers. Anyone attempting to influence change were met considerable contempt and, not uncommonly, the threat of death. Only the easily impressionable–slaves, young boys, those who had fallen from prominence, foreigners without tribal protection–became his followers. Like Muhammad, they must have felt that they had something to prove to society or, most likely, an appetite for vengeance.
So, to summarise: what developed in Mecca was a group of society's underprivileged. These were people without much to offer to their community and a real disdain for their current social constraints, all banding together to follow a somewhat psychologically unhinged individual. It was a recipe for disaster.
From Outcast to Game Changer
Following the death of his uncle, and without the protection of his fellow tribesmen, Muhammad found himself in somewhat of a predicament. So much so, in fact, that, to appease his people and attempt to gain their trust and protection, he altered his narrative to incorporate three Meccan goddesses–Al-'Uzza, Manat, and Al-Lat – announcing that they were actually the daughters of his god. People will do anything to survive, won't they? It's in their genes, I guess–a survival instinct. His tribe–the Banu Hisham clan–didn't buy it, of course, and Muhammad eventually fled to Medina.
Medina had a very different composition entirely, something which Muhammad could use to his advantage. The city was home to many Jews, so the concept of monotheism had already been ingrained into their society. It was a sociopath's dream. Gradually, following his many extravagant and outlandish claims of divine enlightenment, Muhammad ascended the social ladder, and took charge of the city. As with any individual who possesses certain behavioural or social disorders, Muhammad, with an army at his disposal, sought to exact revenge on those who had ridiculed him.
In the ensuing years, Muhammad and his devoted followers took Mecca by force and, as they grew in both numbers and power, eventually took Arabia in its entirety. Muhammad's lust and longing for vengeance, bloodshed and, above all, recognition had finally been sated. He must have died a happy man.
Following his death, the Rashidun Caliphate was established – an empire which would forever change the face of the world. Where the Romans had failed the Caliphate succeeded, but, whichever way you choose dress it up, you can't deny that its successes only occurred through the murder, slaughter and the suffering of innocents.
A Legacy of Destruction
The legacy left behind by Muhammad was one borne of an unhinged mind–corrupt, cruel, bloodthirsty–but it would survive in the minds and desires of equally disturbed individuals for an indeterminable time. The Romans had already left their blood-stained mark on the world–created through insatiable greed and incarnate cruelty, nicely wrapped in religious fallacy–and the Rashidun Caliphate would succeed in the continuation of such traditions. With all religions there is always a central singularity, a man with delusions of grandeur, who wants nothing more than to rule over the masses–a man who has extraordinary tales of gods to tell, in order to attain dominion over the weak. Religion is simply an excuse, a motive, to be utilised to instigate wars, but one fact cannot be denied: where religion is involved, there is always unnecessary suffering and death.