WAS MUHAMMAD A TERRORIST?
I am revisiting this sensitive topic because it needs to be discussed and understood. Since the 9/11 Islamic terrorist action and the uproar about Jerry Falwell's comment its been given a fair amount of attention but little in-depth examination.
I want to do several things:
1) Review and comment upon some of the writings since Falwell's statement.
2) Point the reader to the historical Islamic source materials thus enabling the reader to obtain the information for himself.
3) Provide a short review of Muhammad's deeds to determine if his actions were criminal or terrorist in nature. (Actions speak louder than words.)
It is important to know if Muhammad was a terrorist or not. Muhammad is Islam. Muhammad is a root of Islam. The actions of his life bear critically upon the faith of Islam and his followers because the Quran instructs them to imitate Muhammads life. If Muhammad was not a terrorist then there has been "much ado about nothing". But if he was a terrorist then Islam has a terrorist component and paradigm.
WHAT VARIOUS WRITERS HAVE WRITTEN
Since Falwell's comments a number of people have written on the topic. Instead of addressing the topic most of them attacked Falwell. Well compare two articles. The first is by Dr. Juan Cole, found here: http://hnn.us/articles/1018.html
Cole's article was written supposedly to refute Falwell's comment that Muhammad was a terrorist. But Cole writes under a false pretense. The article is his vehicle to deride those he looks down upon. Instead of discussing the topic, as the title suggests, Cole disparages Falwell and other people who reject and criticize Muhammad and Islam.
Cole states that Falwell's comments are not historically accurate, cites a single non-violent Quranic verse, and discusses how Western society's viewpoint has traditionally been negative towards Islam but has changed and become more accepting.
In the sentence or two that Cole actually does discuss his purported topic, "Was Muhammad a terrorist?", Cole quotes from the Quran:
Far from glorifying aggression, the Koran says
(2:190), "Fight in the way of God against those who fight against you,
but do not begin hostilities, for God does not love aggressors."
I suppose he believes that this quote, flipped like a Lifesaver into the mouths of the unlearned, satisfies and settles the case once and for all. But shame on Cole for doing such shoddy work. And this, mind you, from a bona-fide "historian". Readers deserve better than this deep-fried tripe-on-a-stick. The Quran is a long, tedious read and it says much about violence.
Read the article. Note how Cole does not discuss the topic save for that one verse. Note that the historian does not provide any historical material to support his assertion. More importantly Cole misuses the Quran, 2:190. The historical context for this verse is given and discussed in this article: http://answering-islam.org/Silas/jihad.htm
Here is the relevant material:
In Alis "The Holy Quran", , page 77, Yusuf Alis commentary states,
This passage is illustrated by the events that happened at Hudaybiyyah in the sixth year of the Hijrah; though it is not clear that it was revealed on that occasion. The Muslims were by this time a strong and influential community. Many of them were exiles from Makkah, where the Pagans had established an intolerant autocracy, persecuting Muslims, preventing them from visiting their homes, and even keeping them out by force from performing the Pilgrimage during the universally recognized period of truce. This was intolerance, oppression, and autocracy to the last degree, and the mere readiness of the Muslims to enforce their rights as Arab citizens resulted without bloodshed in an agreement, which the Muslims faithfully observed.
And Asad in "The Message of the Quran", , page 41:
The reference to warfare in the vicinity of Mecca is due to the fact that at the time of the revelation of this verse the Holy City was still in the possession of the pagan Quraysh, who were hostile to the Muslims.
If the Muslims chronology above is correct, then this passage occurred about 2 years before Muhammad conquered Mecca around the time of the Treaty of Hudaybiyya. This was prior to the conquest of Mecca by the Muslims and it sounds reasonable to me. A year or so after the treaty Muslims were allowed to make the pilgrimage but they did not rule Mecca or the nearby lands. The Muslims were strong now and capable of defending themselves, but they were not the supreme power in the region. So, Muhammad ordered them to defend themselves against Meccan attacks, but not be aggressors because they had a treaty. However, outside of Mecca, Muhammad was free to attack tribes of non-Muslims that were not aligned with the Meccans. And this he did!
Once a person investigates the historical context of 2:190, he sees that it is not a blanket command regarding all acts of violence, but a specific command related to a specific group of people: the Meccans and their allies. Cole failed to provide the historical context and correct application of 2:190.
One last comment on Coles work. Cole wrote:
Falwell's comments are problematic for many reasons, not least with regard to historical accuracy. Muhammad forbade murder and the killing of innocents, and never used terror as a weapon in his struggles against his aggressive pagan enemies.
Were going to see a bit later on that Cole is wrong completely. Muhammad did indeed use murder, aggression, and terrorism as weapons against non-Muslims.
On the other hand, here is an article by Ali Sina that supports Falwells comment: http://www.faithfreedom.org/Articles/sina/falwell.htm
Have a look at it. Sina is bold enough to simply tell the truth about Muhammads actions. Sina provides examples of these actions below:
What Falwell said was not factually untrue. Muhammad did things that by todays standard would be seen as acts of terrorism. He raided towns without any previous warning, killed unarmed men who had gone to the fields and markets after their daily business, captured their wives and children and distributed the younger women among his soldiers while always keeping the prettiest ones for himself and having sex with them in the same day he murdered their fathers, husbands and loved ones. These are not fables but historic facts recorded and preserved by Muslims themselves. See for example the capture of Kheibar....These are facts readily available to anyone who cares to read the Quran and the Hadith, the main sacred writings of Islam.
He does not provide specific references but he points to Muhammads conquest of the Jewish enclave of Kheibar. He cites the Quran and Hadith as references. I will provide the specific references to this event later on.
Sina asks an important question that challenges people in the West:
The question is whether we should perpetuate this lie and allow a terrorist ideology flourish and breed more terrorists because they intimidate us.... By protecting Islam are we not sacrificing the truth? By safeguarding the "Muslim sensibilities" arent we endangering freedom of speech? Which one is the greatest evil of all?
Sina closes with a statement that hits the nail on the head:
Sooner or later the world must face the bitter truth that behind Islamic terrorism is the Islamic ideology. That Islam and terrorism are inseparable as are Nazism and violence. The assumption that by appeasement, the Muslims can be won over and they would eventually change their values to accept the Western values of tolerance is a foolhardy belief.
Note the difference between the two articles. One was written by an intolerant college professor who does not bother to address the subject, but under pretence of writing about Muhammad and terrorism, attacks someone he smugly looks down upon. The other is written by an ex-Muslim who has tasted Islam firsthand and has spit it out of his mouth. Coles article does not address anything of historical value relevant to the topic while Sinas article cites many of Muhammads actions.
The point is this: go to the historical record as Sina has done. There you will find the evidence.
Why read what other people, including myself, write when you can read the actual historical source materials for yourself? Do your own study and your own thinking! I began my study of Islam reading various authors works on the subject. Since I was very interested in Islam, I soon realized that I should read the Islamic source materials for myself. These are available and most anyone should be able to obtain them, study them, think things through, and decide for himself. It only takes an open mind and heart and knowledge of the facts.
Let me recommend three sources, all written by Muslims: "Sirat Rasulallah" by Ibn Ishaq, (translated as "The Life of Muhammad" by A. Guillaume and published by Oxford Press), "Tabari's History", volumes 6 through 10, translated by various authors and published by SUNY, and Ibn Sads, "Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir" (The Book of the Major Classes), (volumes 1 and 2 are available in English but hard to find). Any author worth reading will quote from Ibn Ishaq. Tabaris History is available from Amazon.com. Guillaumes comprehensive work is out of print but can be found for sale occasionally, (seek and ye shall find). For references I abbreviate Guillaumes work as "LoM".
Read these if you want to learn about Muhammads life from the earliest and most respected sources.
WHAT ARE THE HISTORICAL FACTS?
LISTEN! ACTIONS ARE SPEAKING LOUDER THAN WORDS!
Muhammad's religious career spanned 23 years. He started as an oppressed preacher and ended up as a powerful ruler. During this time he was many things, played many roles, displayed many emotions, and performed many deeds, both good and bad.
But did he act as a terrorist? That is our focus and we have to review the historical record and examine its facts. I will cite incidents directly from the historical records mentioned above and present my case. I'll summarize 5 incidents for examination and I'll provide their specific references. There are more to choose from but these five should be sufficient.
1) Attacks on the caravans.
Muhammad began to commit and authorize acts of violence against non-Muslims after he arrived in Medina. This was in his 13th year as a religious preacher. Prior to this, while in Mecca, he and his followers were quite weak and unable to commit acts of violence. Had they attempted violence the Meccans would have killed Muhammad outright and possibly killed all of Muhammads followers.
Eventually the persecution became severe and Muhammad fled Mecca running for his life. After arriving in Medina he sent his men out to rob trading caravans. (At this time his Meccan enemies decided to leave him alone. Their perspective was that their problem had run away and they were done with him - good riddance! Tabaris History states that it was Muhammads attacks on their caravans that started the war between Muhammad and the Meccans). As these raids continued caravan attendants were murdered by the Muslim thieves and Muhammad's attacks transgressed the cultural norms and Arab mores of warfare. To justify his crimes Muhammad claimed to have received a special message, a "revelation", from Allah. You can read about this in Tabari Vol. 7 pp10-22 and LoM pp281-289.
Put this in perspective. Muhammad's attacks against these caravans are akin to highwaymen's robberies. They hold up trucks carrying goods and in some cases murder the drivers. But unlike normal criminals, Muhammad claimed to get a special message from God allowing his actions.
Is this a moral standard to be followed?
2) Murder of an old man.
Muhammad was not received by all the inhabitants of Medina. Many people rejected his claim of prophethood. Some of these people were concerned for their fellow citizens and spoke out about the false prophet who had duped them. One of these was a 120-year-old man named Abu Afak. Abu Afak did nothing more then speak his heart and mind and chide those that followed Muhammad. He viewed Muhammad like people today view leaders of religious cults and encouraged his fellow citizens to doubt. Muhammad could not tolerate any criticism of his claim to prophethood and he asked his followers to murder Abu Afak. Abu Afak was murdered, under cover of night, while he slept. A Muslim plunged a sword through the old mans chest. You can read more details about this murder here: http://answering-islam.org/Silas/abu-afak.htm
There is little difference between what Muhammad did to Abu Afak and what Saddam Hussein has done to his critics. Of course at that time Muhammad did not rule the country, so like an illegitimate criminal he acted furtively, and the end result was the same. In Medina if you challenged Muhammad's credibility you would most likely be murdered for it. You can read about this in LoM p675, and Tabaqat Vol 2 p32.
3) Murder of a mother of five children.
One lady, Asma bint Marwan, spoke out about Muhammads cold-blooded murder. She chided her tribesmen for allowing him to get away with it. Again Muhammad faced criticism. Again he could not brook it. Again he asked his followers to murder. Again a Muslim man, under cover of night, snuck up to the victims home and stabbed her to death. Her children slept nearby. You can read more details about this murder here: http://answering-islam.org/Silas/asma.htm
Do you believe that Muhammad was so threatened by this woman that he had to murder her?
4) Murder of a shopkeeper.
Muhammad was not able to get along with non-Muslims very well. His relationship with the Jewish tribes deteriorated quickly. Muhammad was very unhappy that the Jews rejected his claim of prophethood and he wanted to silence their criticisms. An incident follows:
"The apostle said, "Kill any Jew that falls into your power." Thereupon Muhayyisa b. Masud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, 'You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?' Muhayyisa answered, 'Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off.'" (LoM page 369).
This story is also detailed in the Hadith collection of the Sunan of Abu Dawud, Book 19, Number 2996:
Narrated Muhayyisah: The Apostle of Allah said: If you gain a victory over the men of Jews, kill them. So Muhayyisah jumped over Shubaybah, a man of the Jewish merchants. He had close relations with them. He then killed him. At that time Huwayyisah (brother of Muhayyisah) had not embraced Islam. He was older than Muhayyisah. When he killed him, Huwayyisah beat him and said: O enemy of Allah, I swear by Allah, you have a good deal of fat in your belly from his property.
(The Sunan of Abu Dawud is a collection of "traditions" or anecdotes, mostly about Muhammads specific actions or teachings).
Muhammads command was bigoted, "Kill any Jew that falls into your power". Muhammad was not looking to mete out justice, instead he was looking to murder and terrorize those that rejected his prophethood. This is akin to the fundamentalist Muslims today who say, "Kill any American, or Britain, or Jew, ..." whoever is their enemy of the day. The Muslim terrorists of today are doing what Muhammad did earlier.
Is this low standard worth emulating? Hasnt humanity done better?
4) Torture and murder of a man to obtain wealth.
Earlier I quoted Sina and his reference to Muhammads conquest of Kheibar. Here is one sordid detail from this conquest:
"Kinana al-Rabi, who had the custody of the treasure of Banu Nadir, was brought to the apostle who asked him about it. He denied that he knew where it was. A Jew came (Tabari says "was brought"), to the apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the apostle said to Kinana, "Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?" He said "Yes". The apostle gave orders that the ruin was to be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr Al-Awwam, "Torture him until you extract what he has." So he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud." (LoM page 515).
Lets review. Muhammad attacked and conquered Kheibar. It was rumored that there was buried wealth or treasure. Muhammad had one of the Jewish leaders, Kinana, brought to him and demanded the wealth. Kinana said he didnt know of it. But Muhammads greed drove him and he ordered that Kinana be tortured. They built a fire on his chest hoping to cause him enough pain and suffering to make him talk. But Kinana never told them about any buried wealth. In the end Muhammad ordered that he be beheaded.
Is this a great example for humanity to trust in and follow?
You can read more in-depth about this event here: http://answering-islam.org/Silas/kinana.htm
Was Muhammad a terrorist? Of course he was. Youve seen the information quoted exclusively from Islamic source materials. And there are many more crimes committed by Muhammad that could be detailed. To keep this article brief I only listed five. Yes Muhammad was a terrorist, and yes, terrorism is allowed in Islam. And yes, Fundamentalist Muslims are in a state of war with all those who reject Islam and terrorism is a legitimate weapon for their use.
If you want to do more in-depth study of violence and "jihad" in Islam, how it developed and changed over time, you can read this long, detailed article: http://answering-islam.org/Silas/jihad.htm
THE IMPORTANT QUESTION
What effect does this terrorist component of Islam have on Islam today? Many Muslims today are seeking to spread Islam as Muhammad spread it: by force. Aggressive violence is sanctioned by the Quran, Hadith, and Muhammads actions. The terrorist Muslims today are following in Muhammads footsteps.
You are aware of what the Muslim terrorist groups have done and are continuing to do throughout the world. Since this violent aspect is ingrained in Islams theology it means that the nice-guy Muslim you know today has all the religious groundwork to become another Osama bin Laden, John Walker Lindh, or John Muhammad, tomorrow. (Note the race of these Muslims: Arab, Caucasian, and Negro. Islamic terrorism comes in all races and sexes).
A FASCINATING QUESTION
Why did Muhammad brutalize so many that rejected him? As Ive studied his life Ive come to believe the reason is related to the deep mental scarring he received during his first visits from the so-called, "angel", Gabriel. This was a spirit that terrorized him in a cave and gave him his first "revelation". This experience hurt Muhammad so deeply that he attempted suicide many times over the course of the next couple of years. I think Muhammad raged against those that rejected his claim to prophethood because that rejection pointed toward what he feared originally: he was demon possessed or influenced, or that he had gone mad. Mentally he could not deal with it, and as a result, those that touched this aspect of his psyche put themselves dead center in his sights. In his mind, he was either the prophet of God or a demon possessed man. Only one possibility allowed for his continued sanity, and safety from another suicide attempt.
You can read more about Muhammads suicide attempts here:
CHALLENGE TO THE MUSLIM
Is this the example you want to follow and trust for your entrance to heaven? Not me! God has given mankind a much better example in Jesus. In fact, there have been many men who were far more moral, far more kind, far more forgiving, and far greater examples to emulate than Muhammad. Surely God could have done better than to pick this Muhammad as an example to follow.
PRAYER FOR SALVATION
This prayer is written for anyone. This includes Muslims who are seeking the truth and who want to know God in a personal and truthful way.
"Lord Jesus, I believe in You. I believe that You are the Son of God and the Lord. I believe that You died for my sins and were raised from the dead. I confess that I am a sinner and I ask You to come into my heart, cleanse me from my sins, and forgive me for my sins. I turn to follow and obey You I put my faith in you. I now receive You as Messiah and Lord and totally commit my life to You." Amen.
MARANATHA, COME LORD JESUS
Sept 25th, 2003.
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