EVALUATION OF THE CHALLENGE
THAT MOHAMMED OUGHT TO BE THE
MODEL OF ALL MANKIND

It is essential, that our Muslim friends do not assume that Christians are just trying to be difficult when they imply that Mohammed was not a man of immaculate quality.

In reply to this, we should like to state that the word "European" has no place here. It is not a question of nationality, race or colour, but rather of truth or error. Racism with all its consequences is evil wherever it comes from.

We reject the implication that certain objections raised by Christians are not supported by fact.

We cannot be ruled by our emotions on this subject. It ought to be mentioned also, that all our information about Mohammed comes from Islamic sources. Every substantiated statement can consequently not be a "lying accusation."

If it is demanded of a person that he follow and obey a certain leader he may weigh up the pros and cons and reach a decision. But when Truth and eternal life are involved, expediency on temporal issues matters no longer. So when we are told to follow the footsteps of a spiritual leader, our confidence must not be emotional only, but most important of all, it must be rational.

That presupposes as deep a study of the quality of the life of the example, as possible. One should not give a deaf ear to negative reports, provided they are substantiated. Also one would not explain away possible flaws. But most of all one must have a fixed standard by which to measure right and wrong, good and evil. As Christians we use the standard that is found in the Bible. Ultimately our concept of what is moral and what immoral will find its origin there.

May just one text indicate what we mean by this:

Since it has been mentioned already, let us look at the concept of monogamy and polygamy. Was Abraham polygamous? He had Sarah, his wife, and after her death he "took another wife whose name was Ketu'rah" (Genesis 25:1). But then he had Hagar for a short period of time on the advice of Sarah, whose servant she was (Genesis 16:1-2) with the object of raising a descendant and heir to Abraham. This was, at least in a sense, polygamy. What was God's view of this relationship? We have only one and that by implication: after this episode God had no communion with Abraham for 13 years. (Genesis 16:16-17:1). Besides this, we see the inevitable problem of jealousy coming up, which eventually led to Hagar and Ishmael's banishment from the family. Also in the case of David we read of no comment by God on his polygamy, although God severely judged him for his adulterous act with Bathsheba (II Samuel 12). Solomon lived in absolute excess as far as women were concerned, yet there is no direct condemnation, except in that he took idolatrous wives who led him away from the Lord in the latter years of his life. There were other cases of polygamy also, but we see no rejection of this practice in the Old Testament. Jesus, when approached on the question of divorce, re-instituted, however, the original purpose of marriage:

Why? Because polygamy excludes devoted love, for love between the sexes is exclusive, otherwise it is degraded in essence to mere sexual fulfilment. No woman who loves her husband and wishes to be fully loved in return, can tolerate a partner. One may lose sight of this fact in a polygamous society, but even Ayshah, the favourite wife of Mohammed, confessed to having been jealous. How much more would the others have been!

But there is one further aspect: Monogamy gives recognition, status and integrity to a woman. It is silly to argue that a polygamous society makes prostitution unnecessary. What about sexual fulfilment for the woman, who has to share her husband with other wives? And what about the men who surely have to go without wives, because someone else has more than one?

The fact that there is a numerical superiority of girls over boys, is too insignificant to justify the legalisation of polygamy.

We cannot accept the argument that during the "Holy Wars" when many men were killed, polygamy was a justifiable provision for the widows. According to notes in "Sahih Muslim" III, page 941, in all the 82 hostilities during the lifetime of Mohammed, only 259 Muslims lost their lives. He moved to Mecca with 10 000 men. How many of them would have had a chance of marrying even one widow? 2%!

Be that as it may, we do not wish to regard the custom of polygamy as a sinful practice, simply because it appears that in Old Testament times at least, God overlooked it--maybe because of the "hardness of heart" of the people or simply because it was part of their culture. Had it been of much consequence spiritually, God would, no doubt, have spoken out. Nevertheless to a Christian and even in Western Society the above quotation by Jesus and the reasoning that follows, give polygamy a negative connotation.

We have to remember that Mohammed lived in a polygamous society. But he also lived after Jesus and ought to have been aware of His teaching.

Mohammed and his wives

In Sura 66:1 ff we read:

Al-Baiz‚wi, (Commentary Vol.II, pp. 340-341), the Quranic commentator, gives an explanation of this passage:

(The complete story is told in the Rauzatu'r Saf‚ , Vol. II, page 188).

It is in brief, as follows:

It is noteworthy that a revelation from the Holy One should promote and commend a breach of oath by Mohammed--and under such circumstances!

We conclude that Mohammed, at least in his later years, used Quranic utterances in favour of his personal interests. That certain revelations were used for his personal convenience is obvious, and bewilder us:

According to the Hadis ("Sahih Muslim" II, page 723 ff. and "Mishkat" II, page 210) this "revelation" came when Mohammed had just married Zainab and he wanted the guests to leave.

In Sura 33 there are other instances that no-one can really term ethical. The Sura records:

We find it presumtuous - not to say blasphemous - when a prophet assumes a position of equality with God ("..... has been decided by Allah and his Apostle...."). This suspicion is amplified when the very next text covers up, or even makes acceptable, an action which we consider unethical, never mind what the circumstances.

In this case Mohammed married the wife of his adopted son, Zaid-ibn-Haritha. The story is rather obscure, but was reported by Al-Baiz‚wi thus:

The latter statement of Baiz‚wi is, also reflected in the "Sahih Muslim" (page 724):

This "revelation" can be read in Sura 33:37-38:

All the modern commentators explain that both Zaid and Zainab, being incompatible, were suffering in their marriage; that both were encouraged by Mohammed to stay together, until the marriage could last no longer; only then did Zaid (a freed slave) divorce Zainab (of a noble family); and Mohammed, feeling partly responsible for the failure and wanting to reinstate Zainab, married her. We have not found any support for this modern interpretation in the Traditions.

We are reminded of the words of Jesus:

One may argue that in Zainab's case Mohammed was subject to the culture and customs of those days. True. But when God speaks He gives absolute standards that are binding to all who claim to be believers.

Also very strange to us is a special concession to Mohammed concerning his matrimonial affairs. In Sura 4:3 the number of wives for a Muslim is restricted to four at a time, plus, however,

We would contend that prisoners or slaves are still human beings with needs and feelings. One could degrade them to animals or use them like a shirt or socks, but we hold that this is barbaric and unethical. If that was the practice in a barbaric society, a man of God could not fall in line with it. Purely for that reason alone we ought to say that an intimate relationship, without giving the woman concerned the status of wife, constitutes exploitation, even if the social environment does not regard it as such. That is why concubinage is a practice rejected by Christians.

In Sura 33:50-57, however, we notice a different law:

Thus Mohammed indeed enjoyed a superhuman status.

Ayshah, Mohammed's favourite wife,

In Sura 4:23 marriage is forbidden with two sisters at the same time. It is not well-known, but Mohammed had as slave-concubine not only Mary, the Copt, but also her sister, Shereena.

How Mohammed's wives must have felt about all this is reflected to some extent in a Hadis of Ayshah's:

We must emphasize, that all this information comes from authentic Islamic sources!

Not without reason Christians are inclined to be critical about expedient "revelations" like this:

Muslims seem to be under the impression, that sexuality in the case of Mohammed played a very subordinate role in his marriages. Quotations from the Hadis do not confirm this. Perhaps one Hadis of Al-Bukhari's (Volume I, page 165) will illustrate this:

There are some final questions. Was there no envy or jealousy among the wives of Mohammed? Did he actually make use of his special privileges? Did he treat all his wives alike, as is prescribed in the Quran?

Let us hear another of Ayshah's accounts ("Sahih Muslim" IV, pages 1 299-1 301):

We have not quoted the above to slander Mohammed, but try to balance the one-sided romantic picture that has persisted in Islam down the centuries. This is despite the above negative information being available - information that prevents us from being able to accep that Mohammed's life is the product of divine revelation. We appeal to those who present a totally one-sided impression of the life of Mohammed to the followers of Islam, to be impartial.
We are aware that prophets are only people, after all. But we do not expect them to secure an exclusive position for themselves, and seek privileges that would be called sin in others. For instance, we cannot accept the sentimental suggestions by many Muslims, that Mohammed's matrimonial (and extra-matrimonial) affairs are the result of unselfish sacrifice to unite Arab tribes and protect exploited widows, although this should not be ruled out. That Mohammed lived in monogamy until Khadiyah's death (when he was 50) and that he married no virgin (apart from Ayshah) does not seem to prove anything when one considers reports in the Hadis such as quoted above.

Mohammed and his enemies

As Christians our ethics are strongly influenced by and have their origin in the teaching of Jesus Christ and His attitudes towards His enemies. Admittedly a very high standard is set here, perhaps too high for the normal individual to be realized in full on every occasion. Consequently, Biblical Christianity rejects force of any description, at least in attaining spiritual goals. We reject as totally unjustifiable all "religious" wars such as Crusades and those of the "Conquistadores". Christ's Kingdom "is not of this world", otherwise His servants would have fought for it (John 18:36). When Peter used force to defend Christ, he was reprimanded. Practising Christians therefore have no sympathy with "holy wars". That churches have repeatedly given their blessings to wars and even bombs is a sad proof of the fact that mass-Christianity has little concern for Biblical standards and consequently has no right to call itself truly Christian.

Here we should like to have a closer look at the subject of one's enemies on a more personal level:

We are told in practically all the explanations of this incident, that the Quraiza had been acting treacherously towards the Muslims. We could not find this claim confirmed in any Hadis, but even if we had, the following event would not be justified:

Ayshah says:

She remained in that state, yet this was despite the clear ordinance that

Considering the easy and superficial way marriage could be concluded and dissolved, this means very little effort indeed.

Again we conclude that this action, however much justification is given to it, is not appropriate for a man of God, all the more when we compare it to the life and teaching of Jesus Christ.

Maybe the compiler of this Hadis overlooked what Muslim had recorded. There it is related ("Sahih Muslim" III, pages 961-962) that Mohammed asked Abu Bakr for his opinion concerning the 70 captives. Considering that they were of the same tribe, he suggested release for ransom. Thereupon Ibn Khattab was also asked. His reply was:

Mohammed did not approve. Next the narrator Ibn Abbas found Mohammed and Abu Bakr shedding tears. Asked for the reason, he said:

Yet another account of the same situation we read in the "Dictionary of Islam" (page 380):

Still more distasteful if not in numbers, then in sordidness, is the record of the murder of Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf, a Jew of the tribe of Banu Nadir. He is said to have conspired against the life of Mohammed and to have sung obscene songs defaming Muslim women.

Ibn Hisham in the "Siratu'r Rasul" (vss. 550-553) has a more elaborate version. When Muhammad ibn Maslama doubted his ability to execute the "job", Mohammed said to him:

In the same verses, we are told that Ibn Ishaq said:

This resulted in the killing of a Jewish merchant. (vss 714-715) We are told that rivalry existed between the tribes of the Ansars, Aus and Khazraj, each being resolved that the others should not excel it in zeal for Islam and Mohammed.

There was an unexpected casualty. On fleeing down the staircase, one of the murderers fell down and hurt himself. The dying victim's friends tried to pursue the murderers, who were then hiding. The victim died when his friends returned.

Sallam ibn Abu'l Huqaiq was also known under the name of Abu Rafe, and we find the above report confirmed in "Mishkat" IV, page 404:

In similar manner Abu Afak, a very old man, was slain as also was Asma daughter of Marwan, a poetess who attacked Mohammed in her verses. (Ibid. vs. 995)

Umair ibn Udaj went to her house and killed her.

In a footnote (2,272) in "Sahih Muslim" III, page 991, we find a commentary by the well-known Maulana Maududi regarding the murder of Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf:

This, as many similar comments, shows the embarrassment of Islam about certain actions in early Islamic history. This is a hopeful sign. Disappointing, however, is the fact, that such despicable terrorism is covered by a cloak of respectibility--simply because Mohammed is involved. The sincere love for the Truth at any cost is absent. All these reports undermine the possibility that Mohammed is the final and universal Apostle of God.

The evidence given here speaks for itself. It may be objected that this chapter is one-sided - that may be so - yet a camouflage or denial of these facts, is just as one-sided. If we consider Hitler, for example, and leave out his failures and negative trends we would have a person who eliminated unemployment in a country that was riddled with it and who built up a new economy, sense of nationhood and integrity for a whole nation. He built roads and highways, initiated the Volkswagen, which at that time cost two months' salary of the average employee and had tremendous home ownership schemes for the workers, How wonderful! But he left Germany in a chaos of ruins and despair. So, in fairness, we have to present the other side of the picture.

QUESTION: As mentioned before, Christians have a code of ethics by which the above behaviour and happenings are absolutely unacceptable. Can an honest Muslim with a sense of justice and righteousness see any quality reflecting divine inspiration in such actions? Comparing the reports above with the reports of the life of Jesus, can anyone fail to see the total difference? Can any Christian be blamed to prefer being a Christian with a knowledge of the above facts?


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