First, reading a brief run down of the culture that the Qur'an was revealed into, the dramatic shift of society - from a nomadic lifestyle which couldn't produce enough food to sustain the people to a commerical/trading culture which separated people very sharply into the 'haves' and the 'have-nots' and the fact that the rich people, the ones who were settled were forgetting and abandoning the old paths, the old ways of sharing that enabled people to survive - reminded me of the fact that people react differently to such upheavals. They either adapt and go with it, abandoning the old beliefs and forms and embracing entirely new ones, they cling ever more strongly to the old ways (becoming the *bad* kind of fundamentalists), or they take the old ways and adapt them, look at them in a different light. I'd say that that's what happened with the Qur'an and Islam. Nothing new, exactly. People already believed that their supreme god, al-Lah was the same God as the Jews and the Christians worshipped. Many of the rituals were already in use. Only the interpretation of *why* changed.
One of the things that gives me...pause? shall we say? about Mohammed is the fits that he had with every supposed revelation. It's not recorded in any of the prophets in the Bible that they suffered when they spoke with God or one of the angels. So why did Mohammed have these fits? All that pain?
And then this:
"Social justice was, therefore, the crucial virtue of Islam. Muslims were commanded as their first duty to build a community (ummah) characterized by practical compassion, in which there was a fair distribution of wealth. This was far more important than any doctrinal teaching about God. In fact the Qur'an has a negative view of theological speculation, which it calls zannah, self-indulgent whimsy about ineffable matters that nobody can ascertain one way or the other. It seemed pointless to argue about such abstruse dogmas; far more crucial was the effort (jihad) to live in the way God had intended for human beings. The political and social welfare of the ummah would have sacramental value for Muslims. If the ummah prospered, it was a sign that Muslims were living according to Gods will, and the experience of living in a truly islamic community, which made this existential surrender to the divine, would give Muslims intimations of sacred providence. Consequently, they would be affected as profoundly by any misfortune or humiliation suffered by the ummah as Christians by the spectacle of somebody blasphemously trampling on the Bible or ripping the Eucharistic host apart." - p. 6
Ah, so, basically, what I got from that was that the Muslim ummah is supposed to be the ultimate 'prosperity gospel' experiment. If you live right, God will make certain that everything in your life goes perfectly. If something goes wrong, it's your fault because you've stepped out of line.
Also, the egalitarian utopia that Mohammed had envisioned never came to pass. There's just as much inequality in the modern (and historical) ummah as there is in any other community. But that's hardly a specific failing of Islam. Just human nature, really.