Many followers of Islam worship him as the most perfect personality in history. To them, anything written in name of Muhammad becomes example. And then, they attempt to justify the same. On other hand, ex-Muslims and rationalists blame Muhammad for being a violent lascivious person whose teachings and manipulations have caused bloody warfare throughout history and cause terrorism today.
You will find plethora of references from Hadiths and Quran and also from biographies of Muhammad that portray him as a characterless power-hungry psychopath. There is a tremendous literature on this aspect of Muhammad. A lot of material is available on internet as well.
Spurred by the strong opinions – both positive and negative – that are available on Muhammad, I set out to explore his life and evaluate what would have made him so hated and so loved. I shall detail summary findings in this post. But the conclusion was very clear – Muhammad was a legendary revolutionary far ahead of his times and perhaps one of the most inspiring persons of history. Had I lived in his era, I would have been his fan without an iota of doubt. But only a few could understand the man and his vision properly.
Thus his character has been maligned both by his admirers and detractors. His admirers view him as final answer to everything ignoring the fact that he was a human, and as every human he was subject to social and cultural conditioning as per his era. As every human, he had his own set of imperfections. Any attempt to justify an imperfection of any human only maligns and dilutes the positive aspects and noble deeds of legends. On other hand, his detractors find him an easy scapegoat for all the nonsense that happens in name of Islam – gender discrimination, slavery, terrorism, bomb blasts, hijacking and superstitions. They refuse to dig deeply and explore the possibilities of Muhammad being victim of situations and false slander.
One day, I would love to write a detailed biography of this great legend. But for now, I would provide sufficient points to explore the third possibility – a visionary revolutionary noble intentioned legend being misinterpreted and misrepresented.
a. Just think for a while. Why would he call his religion Islam (that means peace) and its followers Muslims (those who humbly submit) if he were to propagate violence and violent means? He could have chosen some other name as well. But why there has been a specific emphasis on Peace and Humility? To me that is the primary theme of Muhammad’s message and everything else should be interpreted in this light alone.
b. The Arab of his times was deeply drenched in immorality and superstitions. If you carefully study his life, you would find that he risked even his life to bring the corrupt Arabic culture of his times towards enhanced sensibilities. He was born in an era where people even used to marry each others’ daughters. Incest was also prevalent and so was slavery. He knew that these practices could not be stopped instantaneously. Not having opportunity to learn from any teacher and complete even a basic education, he began a self-motivated journey of analysis of the practices of his times and trying to discover what should be the right way. He did it to best of his capabilities and knowledge. And considering his education and society, he could think of a long way. He then tried to stop or dilute many of these practices through a variety of tactics – by explaining to them, by showing them fear, by giving them incentives and at times even fighting them.
c. Despite all greatness, Muhammad was still a human and subject to social conditioning as per his times. Often people question why he married a kid and his daughter-in-law. But they forget that in those times, even incest was common. Compared to that, Muhammad came a long way. He showed a great example of monogamy in his first marriage, which was a rare exception in his times. After death of her first wife, he did marry many others including Aisha when she was 6 years old, and Zainab who was wife of his adopted son. He also kept concubines. But instead of criticizing him for these, we should understand that these were fairly accepted practices of his times. We should admire the fact that he did stress on monogamy, even though he himself could not follow it. He also stressed on not marrying in very close relations. So he was in fact a visionary for his society.
d. Similarly, while he could not think of a world where slavery does not exist, he did make freeing of slaves count as a noble deed. He also thought of giving his concubines at least half the status of his wives and their children equal status. In a world of Arabs, where women had no status of dignity or had even basic rights, he could acknowledge that two women equal intelligence of one man.
e. When he had married several times, he realized that polygamy has its peril. So he restricted Muslims from more than 4 marriages. Since keeping concubines was fairly common, he allowed that but on condition that children of concubine at least get same status in family as that of children from wives. Had he lived a few years more, he may have had eradicated slavery and concubines completely.
f. Meat was primary diet of his era. Yet he called for compassion on animals. We may complain that he did not ban meat-eating altogether. But we forget that it would have been too ridiculous for his times considering that meat was staple diet of his times. We should admire the foresight shown by Muhammad that has made many Muslims the most ardent proponents of Vegetarianism. Visit islamveg.org. They are aptly carrying ahead the true mission of Muhammad.
g. People blame him for calling himself as final prophet and asking them to believing in him alone. What else could he have done when everybody was trying to fool people in name of religion and nonsense was happening in name of previously known religious books? He simply wanted people to not be distracted by this. The scientific literature of the East was not available in Arab. All they had were books of superstitions. To put an end to these, he asserted that they were no more necessary and they should follow his message alone.
h. When he found people so intoxicated by stupidity and superstitions, he thought of a great plan. He had been suffering from Temporal Lobe Epilepsy (TLE) from childhood. So he said that he had visions of true teachings of God and hence everyone should stop believing in false practices. He claimed that the TLE bouts were actually times when he had supernatural experiences and visions of true knowledge. Scientists have now discovered that TLE patients tend to be more religious, in any case.
Thus he used even his debility to help people and society. What can be a better example of foresight and self-abnegation!
i. Since many people, primarily Pagans were turning lazy due to belief that they would do good things in next life. So to make them more action oriented he said to them that this life is the only life and they should make best of it. In return, all good things that they aspire for would be gifted to them by God. And if they refuse to do good things, they will burn in Hell. He found no other ploy that could work against such dumb-headed and perverted people.
j. Muhammad had no access to philosophy of the East. He knew that the earlier books known to his society were full of glaring loopholes. Yet he also sensed that even his teachings could also not be fully perfect. So he referred that the true knowledge of God is much vast in scope and is the source of true knowledge. Is it not great foresight that he could admit Vedas as original complete source book of all knowledge, even though he had no access to it? He mentions several times that he believes that East has a spiritual fragrance. He has mentioned also that the old eternal knowledge of God is perfect. Maybe if he had lived a bit longer or had got access to Vedas, things would have been much simpler for him and he could have become a Vedic preacher.
k. But Muhammad had another dilemma as well. If he did not state that his teachings are full and final, he knew that even some of his rogue followers would keep coming up with new teachings to fool people. So he stated that Quran is the last word and there would be no further changes.
And alas! This noble act of Muhammad became cause of all the distortions and misrepresentations that people have about Muhammad and his true Islam, true Quran, true religion.
l. His followers deceived him. They knew that Quran has not yet been compiled. So they imprisoned Muhammad and started spreading false stories and false verses in his name. They knew that Muhammad had bouts of TLE Epilepsy. So they would spread any false thing and then then tell Muhammad that he said so in his epilepsy bout. Since he would not remember clearly and hallucinate in these bouts, his trustworthy followers found an easy way to add whatever they wanted in name of divine message given to Muhammad in his vision.
m. Once Muhammad caught this. He is said to have uttered something in one of the bouts that was against his ideology. He immediately retracted it by saying that he was captured by Satan and hence they were Satanic verses.
n. Thus Muhammad’s teachings were caught between manipulations by several individuals and groups who were looking for their own selfish goals, and some good intentioned followers. Hence Quran and Hadiths become a mixture of original teachings of Muhammad interspersed with unverifiable manipulations. Thus one can easily find innumerable contradictions and glaring inconsistencies in Quran.
o. Once Muhammad rose to power, his followers used him as the face of Islam but overwhelmed him. At times they would put him in embarrassing positions in his bouts and then threaten or fool him to justify that as a divine revelation. Some such events include cohabitation with his daughter-in-law, semen marks on his clothes which Aisha scratched with her fingernails and illegitimate sex with her slave in bed of his wife Hafsa, among other events. One is not sure if these events actually happened in first place, or Muhammad was dragged into them by misusing his epileptic fits. But they do not seem to fit into the noble thoughts and character of Muhammad.
p. As evidence of his foresight, Muhammad could sense the doom that is coming. He had started to doubt his trustworthy people and felt helpless. He thus stated that of the 72 sects of Islam, only one is on path of truth. But by then it was too late. He was gradually poisoned to dumb his mind and finally he died.
q. The process of compilation of Quran happened after his death and there was a bitter fight among his followers. The fight was desperate because the winner would decide what the final Quran that goes to world as only authentic Quran, would look like and would have access to growing Muhammadism. And indeed that happen. The Quran we see today was compiled not by Muhammad but by his followers who were fighting each other like bloody hounds.
r. He was deceived by Aisha, his child-bride, who was too smart for her age. Muhammad had adopted this child from his friend and had a paternal affection to her. Whether he was actually her husband or godfather is unclear. That Aisha was his wife seems not to match the great character and ideology of Muhammad. That should be explored further.
But by the time she reached youth, Muhammad was on death-bed. She was smart enough to manipulate Muhammad from very beginning, perhaps on instructions of someone else. She would always claim that Muhammad had a bout of epilepsy/ revelation whenever Muhammad was with her. And Muhammad because of short-term memory loss would be helpless to admit to them.
Soon it became a trend that Ayats would be revealed to Muhammad only when he was with Aisha. Thus in Quran we have today, apart from the Ayats that were supposed to have been revealed in Ramadan, almost all the rest have been stated to be revealed when Muhammad was alone with Aisha. Thus we have only Aisha to trust reliability of these verses or Ayats.
s. What more, she also had power to manipulate most Hadiths. Today bulk of Hadiths relate to evidence of Aisha or her henchmen.
So smart was she that she even allowed breast-feeding to adults as a ploy to have motherly close relations with them. Claiming it to be a hadith, she and her sisters used it to come close to men in privacy!
t. Not everyone could manipulate the Quran. But that was easier in case of Hadiths. And today, Islam is predominantly as per what is written in these Hadiths. Because the practices of Islam today are governed by Hadiths primarily. Quran is more generic in nature and hence does not spell out much detail.
In case of Hadiths, it was almost free for all. Everyone compiled their own stories as parts of Hadiths. Thus you would find blatant vulgarity, contradictions and even stupid jokes in these Hadiths. Scholars keep fighting on which is a weak Hadith and which is strong. Further, each sect of Islam follows its own Hadiths.
u. Once Muhammad died, bitter fighting began. Aisha, supposed to be dearest to Muhammad fought against even his most loyal followers. The history of Islam has been that of bloodshed since then. The various sects have continued to fight and no follower of islam (peace) as given by Muhammad was spared from it. All immediate followers of Muhammad were engaged in bloody warfare after his death. Many of the Caliphs were murdered and deceiving each other was rampant.
v. Muhammad was indeed prophetic to have seen all this. That is why he said that of the 72 groups, only one is in path of truth. He ensured that his true message of peace finds place in the adulterated Quran and Hadiths. Any reader of Quran can find original message of Muhammad mixed with later day adulterations.
He even inserted in Quran (3.144) his concern that he may be killed. It seems he had realized that he was being slow-poisoned and his epilepsy is being used to make him a prisoner.
w. Final Quran was ready around 10-20 years after his death. Knowing that he has been cheated by his own people, Muhamamad did force insertion of “bismillah rahamanurrahimi” as a prerequisite to reciting any verse of Quran. It emphasizes that
“One and only one who has Compassion and Bliss is to be followed”. He deliberately inserted this Basmala out of context to prevent the sinking ship for drowning. Note that initially this Basmala was rejected because Raham and Rahim that form basis of this phrase or not Arabic words. But even though this does not come in any verse, Muhammad forced insertion of this Basmala as first words to utter when reciting Quran.
x. Muhammad did the best he could do, but the ship eventually sunk. How could it have been saved when someone like Aisha who is claimed to be divinely provided to Muhammad by angels, and whom Muhammad nurtured from very childhood deceived him. He is supposed to have been killed by two of his dearest wives – Aisha and Hafsa by order of their fathers Abu Bakr and Omar. Please refer to research by Shaykh Yasser Al-Habib.
Check out http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_HiMgW9yd7w
After Muhammad was dead, and they had manipulated Quran and Hadiths to significant extents, they then started fighting and killing other followers of Muhammad. They also started proclaiming that if one questions anything in Quran, he or she would go to Hell. Free speech, which was the core characteristic of Muhammad was completely banned.
y. Since then, the warring factions of Muslims would try to justify anything and everything in name of Islam, analyzing not even for a while that lack of questioning and violence go against basic essence of Islam as put by Muhammad.
And when progressive Muslims try to rise above clutches of a questionable Quran and try to abide by core essence of Muhammad, they are threatened through fatwas and Hadiths which justify killing of one who deserts Islam.
(There are hadiths and verses which even state that Muhammad used to spit on mouth of others because his saliva had healing properties, or that Muhammad would not always wash hands after bowels, or how one should rub hands in dust and on mouth if one ejaculates but find no water, or how one is allowed to keep concubines, or how one should kill non-believers in month of Ramadan, and many other ridiculous concepts which any person with scientific temper cannot believe in. But still, when open minded Muslims try to rise above it rejecting it all as unreasonable, they have to face threat of fanatics. Interestingly, one Hadith states that one who deserts the faith deserves to be killed, and even if one has to raid in night, or cheat or kill children and women of non-believers, that is justified. Another even justifies rape of widows of those who have been just killed in battle! All this falsehood in name of Muhammad!)
Muhammad gave all the clear hints that Quran is not complete and final and that true knowledge of God is much vast and complete. Nowadays many Muslim scholars have started accepting that Muhammad used to consider Vedas as the first book of wisdom of God. But instead of going further and embracing Vedas, they would try to use this as a ploy to pull non-Muslims towards the interpolated Quran.
But for the wise and open-minded, there are sufficient hints from Muhammad’s own life and deeds, as well as those of his bloodthirsty followers who compiled the Quran and Hadiths, that the core essence of Muhammad’s teachings lie in freedom of expression, progression of human rights, peace and guts to revise stand
(Muhammad used to revise his stands several times. Once he would realize that a mistake happened, he would humbly state that another verse countering the previous one is revealed. Later, it was used as a ploy to reject many of Muhammad’s original teachings by his bloodthirsty followers)
And eventually they lead to the source of spiritual fragrance in East (in Muhammad’s words) – to the Vedas and their scientific spirit.
Muhammad tried to do the best with whatever he knew and same should be done by people today. Instead of taking Quran literally and causing disturbances by blindly believing in superstitions, they should inculcate the scientific and tolerant temper and follow the footsteps of legends like Abul Kalam, Ashfaqullah and Abdul Hamid.
Many progressive Muslims true to spirit of Muhammad are indeed doing so. May God help them in their struggle to rise above fanatic threats of false Muslims who are disgracing Muhammad by their deeds and beliefs. May God help them combat the handiwork between likes of Osama Bin Laden and their vocal supporters like Zakir Naik.
We are with them by all means because we share the same religion – that of humanity.
Consider Muhammad has a final messenger as given finally in Quran and Hadiths as popular today – and you may hate him as a fanatic!
But consider Muhammad as a human being – and you would find him a genius misunderstood. a visionary, a legend who could not be stopped even by his own mental and physical debilities to surge towards his mission. A Muhammad in true sense – one who is worthy of being praised!