By Amil Imani
Over fourteen centuries ago rose Muhammad, a supposedly illiterate hired hand of a rich widow, Khadija, claiming he was the bearer of a perfect life prescription from Allah: the Quran. He claimed that humanity could do no better than to follow its precepts as well as to emulate Muhammad’s own life example for a guarantee of bliss and salvation. In exchange for this, people had to embrace Islam – surrender – by surrendering their liberty to Muhammad. Up to this day, the Muslim world considers a perfect Muslim as someone who follows in the footsteps of Muhammad, by action and by deeds.
You have an excellent model in the Messenger of Allah, for all who put their hope in Allah and the Last Day and remember Allah much. (Surat al-Ahzab 21)
To faithful Muslims, the Prophet Muhammad is a role model, and they must follow his Sunnah and learn how to implement its precepts and practices in their lives. So to understand the Prophet Muhammad is to understand Islam.
Fortunately, for both Muslims and non-Muslims, Muhammad is not around so that we can personally observe his conduct and be tempted to emulate him. What is possible, however, is to go to authentic Islamic records and discern what Muhammad did during his life and judge it for ourselves.
The absence of Muhammad is fortunate for the Muslims because it enables them to spin many yarns about how virtuous he was. There are more stories about the kindness, his generosity, his forbearance, and whatnot than any dozen men could do in ten lifetimes. Muslims, heads in the sand, keep reciting to each other all these made-up tales.
It is fortunate for non-Muslims that we won’t be inclined to do some of things Muhammad did. Many accounts of his actions, as recorded and reported by reliable, authoritative Muslim sources, would be considered criminal in the civilized societies of today.
Special Hatred for the Jews
Muhammad, for one, was a model of spewing hateful speech, cursing all non-Muslims repeatedly, with special venom reserved for the Jews. In the Islamic scripture, headed by the Quran, the Jews are cursed and called all kinds of names so many times.
Is it Allah who so despises the Jews, or is it Muhammad? Either way, it doesn’t make sense. If it is Allah speaking these derogatory terms in the Quran, then I am shocked. It is unbecoming of the creator of the universe, the source of all good, to devote so much of his book to cursing a few millions of his own creatures. Recall that the Quran claims that not even a leaf falls without the permission and decree of Allah. So why is it that he allows the Jews to behave in ways he condemns?
If it is Muhammad who is angry at the Jews, then it makes sense. The Jews kept rejecting him and telling him to take his sale pitch somewhere else. But what doesn’t make sense here is that Muhammad claims that every word of the Quran is that of Allah. So which is it?
Islamic records report that Muhammad had numerous wives. Some even admit that they can’t provide an accurate count because he took wives so often and with great liberty. A number of his wives were slave women – women taken as booty in battle. Well, okay. Maybe he was doing what the Arabs of his time did. Make war; take everything, including women and children; and treat them exactly the way you would treat your own livestock. If you found a woman you desired, she was yours. That simple.
But he also married a child of one of his most senior followers, Ayesha. The poor child was a nearly six-year-old little girl when he married her, and he consummated the marriage when she was barely nine and he was pushing sixty. Now, Ayesha was not a slave girl with whom he could take that kind of liberty. He could not treat her like a piece of property, rightfully his. She was Abu Bakr’s daughter. Did Muhammad bamboozle the old Abu Bakr, or did the old Abu-Bakr’s lust for power make him offer his little girl to Muhammad?
Either way, what Muhammad did establish was a shameful and criminal act of marrying little girls as a legitimate practice. Not long ago, a member of the highest Islamic Council of Saudi Arabia issued a fatwa saying that in Islam, there is no age limit for marrying even infants. Now, this is the kind of religious sanction that ought to make you cringe.
Just a couple more points here. Muhammad also declared acceptable killing non-Muslims, plundering their possessions, and taking their women and children as slaves to be held or sold. He legitimized slavery and even described how slaves should be treated as second- and even possibly third-class chattel.
Muhammad also established what amounts to a modern-day protection racket. He actively encouraged his followers to attack non-Muslim caravans and habitats, get all the loot they could, give him his cut of 20%, and keep the rest.
But again, if you are the representative of the creator and owner of the universe Allah, everyone must give you a wide berth. And people did. It just so happened that men of Muhammad’s time very much liked what he did and preached. Never mind women. Women did not count in much of Arabia’s baby, Islam.
Muhammad’s Praiseworthy Acts
Let us set aside these well documented unseemly and even criminal activities and look at some of the good things attributed to Muhammad.
One particular case relates to Muhammad’s trying time in Mecca. The story is that an old Meccan woman would throw tumbleweeds on Muhammad as he walked by. In response, Muhammad would speak to her kindly and inquire about her well-being. This is often cited as an example of how kind and forgiving he was. Keep in mind that Muhammad was meek in Mecca and had lots of ill wishers and few friends. He was in no position to retaliate in kind to any abuse he was subjected to.
Once out of Mecca and in power in Medina, Muhammad hardly bothered inquiring about the well-being of old women. He did treat his friends – his followers – kindly. But he showed absolutely no mercy to his enemies. He had his enemies – anyone and everyone who did not fall into his fold – treated by the sword.
A Muslim’s surrender of liberty is not merely a matter of personal choice. Muslims abandon their most precious rights and are out to make all non-Muslims do so, too, by hook or crook.
In short: I, for one, would hardly want to take Muhammad as my exemplar and emulate him.