Doubts and Misunderstandings concerning Prophet Muhammad (صلى الله عليه وسلم)

Q1. Why did Muhammad () marry several women? Did he do so for sexual gratification?

Q2. Did Prophet Muhammad () spread Islam by the sword and force people to accept his religion?

Q3. Did Muhammad () lead numerous wars that were barbaric and bloody?

Q4. Muhammad () executed barbaric corporeal punishments – is it true?

Q5. Did Muhammad () advocate the oppression and subjugation of women?

Q6. Was Prophet Muhammad () Anti-Semitic, and did he slaughter the men, women, and children of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza? Did he plan an ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people from the Arabian Peninsula?

Q7. Did Islam spread by the sword? Myth and reality

Q8. The Prophet and Uniting the Muslim Ummah

Q9. Why Muhammad () didn’t die, God forbid, for Muslims’ sins

Q10. Why Prophets are Sent

Q11. Predictions of Muhammad ()’s Prophethood

Why did Muhammad () marry several women? Did he do so for sexual gratification?

Whenever Prophet Muhammad ()’s name emerges, the image in many people’s minds is a man with many wives. For Muslims, his multiple marriages had meaning and immense implications for Islam, and by extension, the history of the world. Needless to say, the issue remains controversial, and as such, any study of the matter requires an objective approach. Therefore we will endeavor to tackle this topic by being as objective as possible.

The Prophet Muhammad () was driven by the goal to ensure that his mission as the Messenger of God was fulfilled and to establish a society based on God’s commands, and not his own. In order to achieve this goal, he did everything that was humanly possible: he forged relations with the various tribes of Arabia, concluded peace treaties with his sworn enemies and kept relations with the heads of various tribes, nations and religions. Taken together his marriages were one way by which he fostered relationships with various influential tribes.

If one were to view the marriages of the Prophet from this context, the motivating factors behind his marriages become clear. It would be very simplistic and incorrect to view his marriages as being merely for lustful ends.

Let us now briefly examine the context of each one of his marriages to see whether this was the case. From the outset, it is of ultimate importance to note that, except for one of his wives, all of his eleven wives were widowed or divorced. Most were in fact widowed.

His first marriage was to a widow named Khadijah, who had been married twice and whom he married when she was forty years old and he was twenty five. She was the first woman to embrace Islam. She provided great consolation to him throughout his life and he continued to remember her in his later years as his most beloved wife. He stayed with her faithfully for 25 years until her death, at which time he was 50 years old, and she was 65 years old.

If he was driven by lustful desires as accused by his opponents, he could have married several, beautiful young women in a society where having numerous wives was a norm – there would be no reason to faithfully remain with an older woman until the age of 50. This single fact would be sufficient to totally refute the charges against him in this regard. However, an examination of all of his marriages, as we shall see, should put this question to rest.

After Khadija’s death, he married another widow, Sawda, who was 65 years old. She and her previous husband, Sakran, were among those who had immigrated to Ethiopia, fleeing from the oppression and persecution of the Meccans. It was during their return to Mecca that her husband had died. Seeing her difficult condition, the Prophet married her.

Then he married Aisha, daughter of his lifelong friend and companion Abu Bakr. Aisha had first been betrothed to Jabir bin Mut’im at the age of 5. Child marriages were evidently the norm at that time. She was the only virgin among the Prophet’s wives and the only one who was born into a Muslim family.

One of the Prophet’s goals in this marriage was to strengthen the bond of his brotherhood with Abu Bakr, who was his main defender against the Meccans. Second, Aisha was of a lineage known for honor and intelligence. The Prophet knew that she would tremendously benefit his nation (ummah) by transmitting crucial knowledge from his life, especially family and personal matters that others were not privy to. Indeed, the Prophet advised his community to learn half of the knowledge of the religion from Aisha. The foresight of the Prophet proved itself, for she would live for 45 years after his death, and thus became one of the main sources of Prophetic wisdom and knowledge.

He also married another widow, Hafsa, who was the daughter of Umar Bin Khattab, his next closest companion. Her husband, Khunays, had been martyred in the Battle of Badr. He felt a duty towards Umar, whose acceptance of Islam provided a major boost for the Muslims in Mecca against their foes.

Zaynab, daughter of Khuzaima, was another widow that the Prophet married. She was married to Ubayda bin al-Haris, who was martyred in the Battle of Badr. She was sixty when the Prophet married her. She was known as the “Mother of the Downtrodden”. She, however, passed away after two or three months of marriage.

He married another widow, Umm Salama. Her previous husband, Abu Salama, was martyred in the Battle of Uhud, leaving behind four orphans. Umm Salama was pregnant at that time and was extremely distressed and very sad. Needless to say, she needed much support. After her delivery, Umar proposed that the Prophet marry her. The Prophet accepted the proposal and married her. What purpose can there be for a person of 54 to marry a widow with four orphans except love, mercy and compassion? There was another crucial factor in this marriage: Umm Salama was from the Bani Makhzum tribe, which was the tribe of Islam’s arch enemies at that time, Abu Jahl and Khalid bin Waleed. Though Abu Jahl never changed, Khalid later accepted Islam and became a brilliant military general. Once again, bringing influential and powerful tribes closer to Islam was one of the noble objectives of the Prophet’s marriages.

He married a divorced woman, Zaynab, the daughter of Jahsh. She was married to Zayd bin Haritha, the freed slave of the Prophet. She was the cousin of the Prophet, being the daughter of his paternal aunt. Zayd divorced her and the Prophet married her when she was 38 years old. His marriage to Zaynab was aimed at emphasizing the invalidity of the age-old Arab practice of taking adopted sons as real sons. The marriage was divinely sanctioned, as stated in the Qur’an, “When Zayd had come to the end of his union with her, We gave her to you in marriage …’’(33:37)

Umm Habiba was another widow whom the Prophet married. She was a daughter of Abu Sufyan who was a bitter enemy of Islam until his conversion later. She was initially married to Ubaydallah, who was a companion of the Prophet. Both immigrated to Ethiopia, fleeing the persecution of the Meccans. Ubaydallah became a Christian and later died there. Considering her very difficult situation, her father being an enemy of Islam and her husband a deserter, the Prophet sent an envoy to Negus, king of Ethiopia requesting to arrange a marriage with her. The king arranged the marriage and she was married to him when she was 36 or 37 years old. Like many of his marriages, his marriage to Umm Habiba resulted in bringing a major tribe of the Quraysh, Banu Abd al-Shams, towards Islam.

He married another widow, Juwayria. Both her father and husband were bitter enemies of Islam; the former had planned to attack Medina at the instigation of the Meccans. This led the Muslim army to march against the clan of her father. The result was their defeat at the hands of the Prophet and the death of Juwayria’s husband. After the conflict, the Muslims captured many prisoners, one of whom was Juwayria. Juwayria’s father offered a ransom for her freedom. She requested to stay in the service of the Prophet and he married her at her request. Her marriage resulted in the freeing of all the prisoners of war of her tribe. Again, this marriage led to the establishment of peace and friendly relations.

He also married a woman named Safiyya, a widow as well. Her second husband was killed in the Battle of Khaybar. Her father was the chief of the famous Jewish tribe, Banu Nazir. He was killed in the Battle of Khaybar, and so Safiyya was taken prisoner. She was eventually freed and the Prophet married her. Some complained that she was sympathetic to the Jews. Her answer was that they were her relatives, and the Prophet defended her position. He told her to respond in the following way: “My father is Aaron (Haroon) and my uncle is Moses (Musa).” This marriage had led to a closer relationship between the Muslims and the Jews of Medina.

His final marriage was to another divorced woman, Maymuna. She was married twice and was very old. She married the Prophet when he was 57. The reason for her marriage was that the Prophet’s uncle, Abbas, suggested it in order to bring her tribe – Halaliyyeen – to the fold of Islam. That was actually what happened; after his marriage to her, they entered Islam in hosts.

From the above, we see that it was not the Prophet’s whims and desires that initiated his marriages, but rather it was that God had planned his marriages. He commanded His Messenger after the last marriage (with Maymuna) not to marry any more (Qur’an 33:52), because by that time the objectives of his marriages were achieved as the Prophetic mission was near to completion.

All of this does not mean that the Prophet was not interested in sex. He was surely attracted by sex and beauty, and was not a prude in expressing it. He said, “perfume and women are made dear to me. However, the joy of my eye is in prayer.” He also said: “I am in full control of myself.” In fact, a look at his life would suggest that he approached the various aspects of human life with moderation – be it eating, drinking, or enjoying time with his wives – never indulging in any one thing excessively. The portrayal of him by many Western writers as promiscuous and licentious, mostly due to the fact that he had numerous wives, is far from the truth and historical facts as shown above. Indeed, his marriages had a social motive and a higher goal than mere sexual gratification.

It would be relevant here to quote a female, Western scholar, Karen Armstrong, the author of Muhammad (): A Prophet for Our Time, in relation to the issue of Prophets marriages and polygamy in Islam: “The Qur’anic institution of polygamy was a piece of social legislation. It was designed not to gratify the male sexual appetite, but to correct the injustices done to widows, orphans, and other female dependents, who were especially vulnerable. All too often, unscrupulous people seized everything and left the weaker members of the family with nothing… Polygamy was designed to ensure that unprotected women would be decently married, and to abolish the old loose, irresponsible liaisons; men could have only four wives and must treat them equitably; it was an unjustifiably wicked act to devour their property… The Qur’an was attempting to give women a legal status that most Western women would not enjoy until the nineteenth century. The emancipation of women was a project dear to the Prophet’s heart…”

Did Prophet Muhammad () spread Islam by the sword and force people to accept his religion?

It is a widespread belief that Islam was spread by the sword. There are two main reasons showing that this was in fact not the case.

First, the Messenger of Mercy, Prophet Muhammad (), proclaimed that he would adhere to God’s commandments. And contrary to forcing people to accept Islam, God explicitly prohibited forced conversion: “There is no compulsion in faith” (Qur’an 2:256)

There is an interesting story related to the revelation of this verse. A man, who was among the companions of the Prophet, had two sons who embraced Christianity before the emergence of the religion of Islam. The two sons came to Medina among a group of Christians, and at that time their father insisted that they both should become Muslims. However, they refused their father’s request and brought the matter before the Prophet. The father asked, “Oh Prophet of Allah, how could part of me enter hell while I am watching?” It was then that God revealed the above verse forbidding any compulsion in religion. Thus, the man’s two sons were free to remain Christians. The Messenger of Mercy did not force them to become Muslims according to their father’s wish.

In another verse, the Qur’an says: “But had your Lord so willed, all who are on the earth would have believed in your message, each one of them and all of them together – will you then be the one to compel people so that they become believers, O Prophet?” (10:99). All admit, even those who accuse the Prophet of forced conversions, that the Prophet was a God-fearing person who obeyed Him whole-heartedly in everything. How, then, can he violate these explicit divine commands?

There are even authentically recorded incidents in which the Prophet advised some individuals not to accept Islam for a time being, due to their safety. In one instance, a person by the name of Amr bin Abasa Assulami came from a far distance to Mecca to embrace Islam. It was a time when Muslims were persecuted in Mecca and it was extremely difficult to meet the Prophet. Somehow, Amr managed to find the Prophet and he expressed his desire to embrace Islam. The Prophet, however, told him that he should not embrace Islam at that time, since the situation between the Prophet and his people was dangerous. The Prophet then advised Amr to go back to his family until the victory of the Prophet becomes apparent. It was not until approximately 7-8 years later that Amr met the Prophet again to embrace Islam. Surely, had the Prophet been only concerned with converting people despite their own safety, he would not have advised Amr to return to his family on account of the imminent danger.

It is true that the Prophet was extremely keen to convey God’s message and to lead people to salvation. The Qur’an describes this eagerness: “Would you, perhaps, torment yourself to death with grief over them if they are not willing to believe in this message?” (18:6). But this eagerness never prompted him to convert even a single person against his will.

Second, there is no historical evidence suggesting that the Prophet Muhammad () acted contrary to the principle that there should be no compulsion in religion. There is not a single recorded instance in the Prophet’s thoroughly documented life of such an incident. Although some early Western historians advanced such claims, more recent studies have shown that conversions did not happen suddenly at the point of the sword, but when people living alongside Muslims gradually and genuinely accepted the faith voluntarily. Indeed, it is as the Orientalist George Sale said: “Whoever says that Islam spread by the power of the sword, his/her word is a pure allegation, because the sword was not even mentioned in many countries and Islam spread there.”

Mahatma Gandhi, the father of the nation of India, once said, “I became more than ever convinced that it was not the sword that won a place in Islam in those days in the scheme of life. It was the rigid simplicity, the utter self-effacement of the Prophet, the scrupulous regard for his pledges, his intense devotion to his friends and followers, his intrepidity, his fearlessness, his absolute trust in God and his own mission.”

The famous French historian Gustaf Lobon stated in his book, Arab Civilization, “Power was not a factor in the spread of Islam; that’s because Arabs left the people they vanquished free to practice their own religion.”

Another famous European writer, Thomas Carlayle, said: “Accusing [the Prophet] of relying on the sword for people to respond to his preaching is incomprehensible nonsense!”

History, logic, objectivity, and scholarly research all reject the notion that the Prophet Muhammad () forced his religion on unwilling masses. It was voluntary acceptance and the utter conviction of the truth of Islam that caused mass conversions in many countries. Indonesia, Malaysia, China and several South Asian countries are telling examples of this reality. We can see a glimpse of this today – though in a less dramatic way – in Europe and North America where in those continents Islam is the fastest growing religion.

Did Muhammad () lead numerous wars that were barbaric and bloody?

The Prophet Muhammad (), the Messenger of Mercy, did not prescribe war as a natural state of affairs, and at the same time, war cannot simply be abolished. What any reformer or spiritual leader can do is minimize its brutality. The Messenger of Mercy, at God’s direction, attempted to establish rules of warfare that would make war as humane as possible, to encourage peace and to minimize the priceless cost of human lives.

The Prophetic approach to war can be better appreciated by looking at some figures. The Messenger of Mercy was forced to defend himself militarily on many occasions, yet the amount of human loss that resulted is surprisingly low given similar battles and wars in human history. From a total of 28 battles and 38 campaigns, the total casualties from those wars, including both sides, amounted to approximately 1 284 lives.

Someone can argue that the reason for the decreased numbers of causalities is because of the smaller number of combatants that participated in the various campaigns. But a careful examination shows that the percentage of people killed in these wars relative to the number of the people who participated in them amounted to about 1.5 percent. Since the Messenger of Mercy was victorious in most of these battles, the numbers of casualties indicate that he is not to be counted among the ruthless and barbaric warlords, conquerors, and military generals of human history – and in fact, far from it.

Compare the above numbers to other wars in human history. For example, in the Second World War alone, the relationship between the amount of people killed (including civilians) to the amount of combatants who were involved in that war was 351%. That is, 10 600 000 participated in that war yet the amount of human deaths were as high as 54 800 000.

Contrary to promoting barbaric warfare, the Messenger of Mercy brought sweeping changes to the conduct of war, radically limiting the means and use of violence against others. Much like today, the Messenger of Mercy lived in a world in which brutal warfare was rampant. Like the Roman and Persian empires of that time, and the empires of today, the Arab tribes primarily engaged in battle for material gains rather than for any higher, moral purpose. The Messenger of Mercy, however, would change that radically.

The Messenger of Mercy stressed the observance of several important moral principles even during the tumult of warfare. First, he fundamentally redefined the basic understanding and concept of war. By introducing an entirely new term – jihad fee sabil Allah – he purified warfare from its purely material or vested interests and self-serving motives. Jihad means “struggle” and for one to carry a concerted effort to remove the injustices and oppression imposed by others. By adding “in the way of Allah” (fee sabil Allah), he taught that war must not be waged for the sake of the self, of spoils, pride, prestige, subjugation, or oppressing other people. This belief served as the glue holding the principles of warfare together and reining in all potential injustices inherent within it.

Under this new conception of war, the Messenger of Mercy introduced a comprehensive set of laws that encompassed the conduct of war: its moral boundaries, components, rights, and obligations; the difference between combatants and non-combatants and their rights; and the right of envoys, prisoners of war, and conquered people. All of these principles were expressed clearly and unequivocally by the Messenger of Mercy.

The Messenger of Mercy also underscored the sanctity and inviolability of human life, be it Muslim or non-Muslim. He embodied the Qur’anic verse: “If anyone slays a human being – unless it be [in punishment] for murder or for spreading corruption on earth – it shall be as though he had slain all humanity” (5:32). Through this divine instruction, the Messenger of Mercy purified war from all selfish motives and inferior objectives. His followers, although they certainly were – and still are – prone to great errors, were remarkable exemplars of these principles in general.

The Messenger of Mercy prohibited the robbery, banditry, and vandalism that had been commonplace in wars before his time. For example, after the Khaybar peace treaty had been signed, some of the new, young Muslims started looting Jewish property. The Jewish leader came to the Messenger of Mercy and asked: “Is it appropriate for your people to slaughter our donkeys, devour our crops, and beat our women?” Suddenly, the Messenger of Mercy ordered the entire army into the mosque for prayer and told them: “Allah did not permit you to enter the People of the Book’s houses without permission and to beat their women and eat their crops”. If a milking animal is found on the way and soldiers want to take its milk, they cannot do so unless permission is granted. Therefore, even in warfare, the Messenger of Mercy stressed the importance of the rule of law and respect for the property and rights of others, which is far more than we can see in modern wars.

In the past, armies destroyed crops, farmland and property, and even entire villages. But the Messenger of Mercy prohibited killing all non-combatants, such as women, children, the old, the sick, the wounded, the blind, the disabled, the mentally unwell, travelers, monks, and worshippers. In fact, he only permitted killing those in the front lines; everyone behind them was protected from attack. Remarkably, the Messenger of Mercy here grants far more than what is stated in theories of just war today. Once the Messenger of Mercy saw a woman’s corpse on the battlefield and became very upset. He therefore ordered his commander, Khalid ibn al-Walid: “Do not kill women or labourers…” Moreover, the Messenger of Mercy specifically commanded Muslims not to kill monks or worshippers, and not to destroy places of worship.

Before Islam, both Arabs and non-Arabs, in the heat of vengeance, habitually burned their enemies alive. The Messenger of Mercy categorically prohibited this: “Nobody should punish with fire except the Lord of Fire (God)”. He also forbade desecrating and mutilating the enemies’ corpses by cutting off their limbs.

The Messenger of Mercy prohibited the killing of prisoners of war, declaring that: “No wounded person will be killed, no one who flees will be followed…”

The Messenger of Mercy also stated that one cannot breach one’s trust and kill those with whom peace has been made. No peace treaty should be violated: “If you have made a treaty with a people, you cannot make any changes or alterations until it expires…”

Today, in a time of constant war under pretexts of pre-emptive strikes, these teachings demonstrate his just personality – a Messenger for our time.

The Messenger of Mercy tried his utmost to reduce human casualties to marginal amounts. Anyone who studies the Messenger of Mercy’s wars objectively and compares that with other wars in human history including the wars of our modern times (such as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the War on Terror) can easily conclude that his wars were the least bloody – and most humane.

Many portray the Messenger of Mercy as a war monger and blood thirsty as if fighting battles was his main occupation. But in reality, out of the ten years of his life in Medina, only 795 days were spent on battles and expeditions. The rest of the ten years (that is approximately 2865 days) he spent on bringing revolutionary changes to people’s lives and totally reforming a pagan society. This historical fact is overlooked by most of his biographers and almost all Western writers who depict him as a war-monger.

Muhammad () executed barbaric corporeal punishments – is it true?

The Prophet Muhammad (), Messenger of Mercy, turned a society that was plagued with crimes and injustices into one that Muslims believe was utopian. The Prophet achieved this by following God’s command, and by among other things, addressing the root ills of society and applying a just and working legal system. Let us take as an example the case of adultery and sexual promiscuity. When the Prophet arrived in Medina adultery was rampant and prostitution was a profitable business. First, he raised the moral consciousness of his people against such vices, which took him considerable time. Then he closed the doors of brothels and cleaned up the whole community.

To understand the Prophetic legal system, one must understand that the Prophet was concerned with all aspects of human life: from the personal to the societal realms, as well as the spiritual. The Prophet addressed the concerns of the individual’s and society’s worldly here and now as well as the spiritual hereafter.

With regards to this world, in analyzing the societal benefits of the legal system brought by the Prophet one realizes that at its core the Islamic legal system (Sharia) has much in common with most legal systems. For instance, in attempting to achieve safety and security in human societies, legal systems – including the Islamic one – employ the principle of deterrence. The idea being that by introducing a threat of punishment, the individual would be less likely to commit a specific crime.

Take, for example, the crime of murder. If a person knew nothing would happen to him if he were to kill someone, he would not be as deterred than if he knew that he would serve time in prison, or perhaps lose his own life as a consequence of his actions. By deterring an individual from committing heinous acts through punishment, more lives are saved and society is more secure. As the Qur’an states, “There is preservation of life for you in retribution, O people of understanding…” (2:179)

In attempting to balance the concerns of victims and society, legal systems, and the Prophetic legal system (Sharia) included, employ the principles of retribution and restitution. By retribution and restitution, the public takes back from the criminal the advantage he has unfairly taken by committing the crime in question from the public and the victim. Otherwise, leaving the criminal unpunished would leave the scales of justice unbalanced, and it would be unfair to both the rest of the law-abiding members of society and to the victims of crimes.

In relation to retribution, many would argue that the concept does little to help victims or criminals. For instance, killing a murderer cannot bring back the life of the victim and would only result in the loss of another life. Further, many argue that victims should be encouraged to forgive and not exact retribution – the understanding being that forgiveness being closer to civility and revenge more closely related to barbarity.

Indeed, Islamic law (Shariah) addresses these and other concerns by giving the victim options: to forgive or to exact retribution. The Qur’an in fact encourages the victim to forgive the wrongdoer for the benefit of both parties. However, in some instances victims and their family members can only feel pain as a result of the crime and see no solution except to exact revenge upon the criminal, or have the criminal pay for his crime in the form of financial compensation or through other means. In these instances the ideas of retribution and restitution seek to address the concerns of the victim and society at large. Not addressing this aspect of human social relations can result in injustices; today, certain legal systems are so lenient in their punishments that perpetrators of heinous crimes such as rape and child sexual abuse receive only a slap on their wrists, leaving victims tormented with the knowledge that their abusers remain unpunished while they must live with their suffering for the remainder of their lives.

Yet the Prophet, the Messenger of Mercy, did not leave the criminal himself out of the equation, and was concerned with the criminal’s spiritual reformation. The criminal was often given a second chance, for if he repented after the first act and mended his ways, he may have been allowed to go without punishment. In relation to the crime of fornication, the Qur’an states, “If they both repent and mend their ways, then leave them alone. Verily, God is acceptor of Repentance, the Merciful” (4:16).

Moreover, the punishment itself is seen as a form of spiritual purification for the criminal. Seen in this way, a criminal who is concerned about his spirituality and his life in the hereafter may even choose to be punished for his crimes.

The story of Maiz bin Malik is quite telling in this regard. Maiz committed adultery and came to the Prophet confessing to his crime and insisting on having himself purified by being punished, knowing fully-well the punishment for such a crime was stoning until death. The Prophet turned him away three times, and twice asked Maiz’s tribe if Maiz was sane or if there was anything abnormal with him. They insisted he was sane and that he was one of their pious men. Only after Maiz insisted on being punished the fourth time and after the Prophet was assured that Maiz was sane was his request accepted.

In a similar incident, a woman who committed adultery requested to be punished, and like with Maiz the Prophet turned her away. Only after she insisted on being punished was the woman punished. Even then, the Prophet highly praised her extraordinary repentance, prayed for her, and buried her. This shows the high degree of moral consciousness the Prophet nourished in the hearts and minds of his followers. The Prophet never implemented punishments before the society in which they were to be applied was ready for it.

It should be noted that the Prophet’s teachings with regard to criminal law was never meant to be applied without understanding the circumstances of the criminal. That is, the Prophet did not conclude that a given punishment is suitable in every circumstance.

The importance of context in applying corporeal punishment can be seen in the crime of theft. In any organized society, stealing is regarded as a punishable act. However, there may be instances when stealing can be understandable, and where the relevant punishment can be dispensed with. For example, during a period of famine in the reign of Islam’s second Caliph, Umar b. al-Khattab, the corporeal punishment for stealing, that is the amputation of the hand, was not applied since in those times of dearth and starvation, stealing could have been a crime of necessity rather than maliciousness.

Islamic punishments, especially those for adultery and theft are meant to be implemented only in an Islamic society where social justice and moral consciousness prevail and where there is no room left for the committing of crimes except as a result of human wickedness. The Prophet of Mercy never implemented even a single punishment in a context other than this.

It may be not out of place here to state that stoning to death as a punishment for adultery, while not practiced today by Jews and Christians, is commanded in the Torah, a scripture sacred to both religions.

Did Muhammad () advocate the oppression and subjugation of women?

It is sometimes argued that the Prophet Muhammad () advocated the oppression of women as shown in his actions and the principles that he taught his followers. Some ask: how can one dismiss the oppression of women as wrongful acts perpetrated by some misguided Muslims, when it was endorsed by the very Prophet of Islam? Further, since the Prophet Muhammad () prescribed laws for women from the perspective of a man and the patriarchal, tribal society in which he lived, this would naturally lead to diminishing the status of women. Therefore, the argument goes, Islamic attitudes and laws should be viewed as outdated and in need of revision.

But is it really the case that the Prophet’s teachings and practices endorse an oppressive way of life for women? Moreover, were his teachings based on his personal knowledge, experience or the conditions of the society in which he lived? Are Islamic attitudes toward women related to personal, social and historical conditions?

As stated in the Qur’an: “It is God who created you from a single person, and made its mate of like nature, in order that you might dwell with each other in mutual love” (7:189). This important verse expresses equality in the essence of both men and women. It is a principle that is grounded in an overarching view of humankind in Islam: that men and women are at the most fundamental level equal in the pursuit of ultimate happiness. While Islamic law takes for granted certain biological and social differences between men and women, this overarching view of gender equality is never sacrificed.

At the same time, the rules and regulations that apply to women that seem discriminatory from a modern perspective were not based on the Prophet’s personal opinion or historical contingencies. Rather, Muslims believe that the Prophet was the conveyer of divine speech which carries far-reaching wisdom. Grasping aspects of God’s wisdom requires learning, spiritual insight and experience. Thus, for a Muslim, it is not to be refuted simply because they run contrary to some modern sentiments.

It should be added that although there are biological and social differences between the genders, the Prophet’s ethics connect man and woman in a very significant way: in their pursuit of good works. The two are meant to be agents of good and help one another in doing what is ultimately virtuous. The Qur’an not only endows women with the lofty ideals of attaining virtue and knowledge but also inextricably links the function of men with that of women; thus one gender is not privileged over another. In describing the relationship of a husband to his wife, the Qur’an says “you are a garment to her and she is a garment to you” (2:187). Both are to be mutually supportive in the pursuit of good.

The Prophet not only treated women fairly and equally but also raised her status in a society that treated women as a curse and as inferior. This was a society that buried alive newly born girls to protect a skewed view of honour.

Two critical instances demonstrate the care and rank he assigned to women. First, at the time of his death, when one would be concerned with the most significant of matters, the Prophet strongly advised his companions to treat women gently and compassionately.

Another occasion was his farewell speech at Mount Nur, on his only Pilgrimage which was reportedly attended by one hundred and twenty thousand people. He purposely used that unique and rare occasion to instruct his companions to treat women fairly and compassionately, lest people go back to their old and unjust practices.

Hundreds of examples can be cited from his own life that show how he treated women compassionately and with utmost dignity and respect. He showed respect and dignity not only towards Muslim women but also non-Muslim women as well. Women from various backgrounds, race and colours found in him a refuge and a merciful protector. This claim can be substantiated by many incidents which are beyond the scope of this leaflet.

He taught them that “women are exactly like men.” This is an explicit statement from the Prophet proclaiming the equality of women and men in status and rank. Once a person came to the Prophet and asked, “Who deserves my best rapport?” The Prophet replied, “Your mother”. The person repeated the question three times and the Prophet repeated the same answer. On the fourth time he said: “Your father.” To those unfamiliar with Arabic expression, the Prophet’s answering “your father” on the fourth occasion indicates the lofty status of motherhood over fatherhood, and the highly regarded status of women in Islam.

On another occasion he said “A believer must not hate a believing woman. If he does not like an aspect of her character, he should like another.’’

Whenever his daughter Fatima would come to his home, he would stand to greet her, kiss her, and seat her in his place. Whenever he visited her she would do the same: stand up to greet him, kiss him and seat him in her place. Old women, slave girls, and women who many would consider unimportant were able to take his hand and go around the streets of Medina to fulfill some of their needs. In the Prophet they would always find a helping hand; such was his humbleness, tenderness and mercy towards women.

Hundreds of examples can be cited from his own life that show how he treated women compassionately and with the utmost dignity and respect. He showed respect and dignity not only towards Muslim women and women of his community, but also to non-Muslim women and outsiders alike. Women from various backgrounds, races and ages, found in him refuge and mercy.

Was Prophet Muhammad () Anti-Semitic, and did he slaughter the men, women, and children of the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayza? Did he plan an ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people from the Arabian Peninsula?

The Prophet preached to the Jews and hoped and prayed for their salvation. He did not teach his followers to hate or exterminate the Jews. The incident at Banu Qurayza is often cited as the brutal murder of innocent Jews, but what is often left out is its historical context. The conflict was not about the Jewish faith but about a war that the tribe of Banu Qurayza had chosen to involve themselves in.

When the Prophet came to Medina he made a constitutional pact with the Jews who were a minority. They were afforded rights and freedoms which they enjoyed and for a time being they lived in peace. Muslims did not harm them.

To give an example, once a Jew and a Muslim quarreled. When the Jew praised Moses over the Prophet Muhammad () the Muslim insulted the Jew. The Jew complained to the Prophet who said: “Don’t confer on me superiority over Moses.” It was before this backdrop of religious coexistence that the incident of Banu Qurazya occurred.

The pact the Prophet Muhammad () made with the Jews along with the other tribes in Medina was part of a written constitution that is considered to be one of history’s oldest. A whole section of the constitution pertained specifically to the Jews.

The main clauses of the constitution that dealt with Muslim-Jewish relations stated that Muslims and Jews must reside peacefully with one another and that they must not transgress against each other. The two were to both protect the city of Medina, and if there was to be any foreign aggression, everyone must defend the city together and share in the financial burden.

This peace treaty included the major Jewish tribes of Medina at that time: Banu Quraiza, Banu Nazir, and Banu Qaynuqa. While there were other Jewish tribes that lived with the Muslims in peace, these particular tribes did not abide by the treaty, and one after another, the three tribes breached the pact.

First, the Banu Nazir attempted to assassinate the Prophet, which led to a war between the Muslims and this tribe.

Second, Banu Qaynuqa breached the right of a Muslim woman by forcibly exposing her private parts while she was in the market. This led to another conflict between Muslims and Jews. Consequently both Jewish tribes were expelled from Medina, due to their violation of the treaty and constitution.

As for Banu Qurayza, not only did they breach the treaty, but they conspired with Meccan and other Arab tribes to launch an assault on Medina to wipe out the Muslims once and for all. Nowadays such actions would be categorized as treason and insurgency.

The Jews and their allies had an army of ten thousand as they marched towards Medina. The Prophet had only three thousand soldiers. The ensuing battle was called the “Battle of the Ditch” because the Muslims dug a trench around Medina as a defensive ploy.

Never did the Prophet face such a critical and alarming situation in all of his military experience. He even had to send Muslim women and children to the outskirts of Medina for their safety. The Muslims feared that the community would be exterminated.

The Qur’an depicts the situation: “Remember what you felt when they came upon you from above you and from below you, and when your eyes became dim and your hearts came up to your throats, and when most conflicting thoughts about God passed through your minds: for there and then were the believers tried, and shaken with a shock severe.” (33:10)

Suddenly a storm wind blew violently, but strategically in favour of the Prophet and his army. Interminable strife and difficult climatic conditions eventually forced their enemies to leave. Admitting utter defeat, the Meccans and the other tribes left Medina. The Prophet immediately marched to Banu Qurazya. After a siege of almost one month, Banu Qurayza surrendered.

The Prophet Muhammad () then had to deal with the 700 prisoners of war from Banu Qurayza. He did not make any decision regarding them, but left it to an arbitrator, Sa’d bin Muadh, who was an ally of Banu Qurazya and the chief of a major Medinian tribe.

Sa’d took a pledge from both sides—the Prophet and the leaders of Banu Qurayza—that his verdict would be binding. Sa’d’s final verdict was that those who fought against the Muslims should be killed, and that the women and children should be taken as prisoners. This judgment was applied in accordance with the voluntarily agreement of the Jews to be bound by the final verdict.

Banu Qurayza unfortunately faced this harsh punishment due to their very serious act of treason, which entirely undermined the fragile stability of the community. In fact, the Jews did not object to this judgment, as Sa’ad’s decision was based on Jewish law, as expounded in the Torah:

When you march up to attack a city, make its people an offer of peace. If they accept and open their gates, all the people in it shall be subject to forced labour and shall work for you. If they refuse to make peace and they engaged you in battle, lay siege to that city. When the Lord your God delivers it into your hand, put to the sword all the men in it. As for the women, the children, the livestock and everything else in the city, you may take these as plunder for yourselves. (Deuteronomy 20:10-16)

A Hindu writer, Nadhuran, after a detailed study of the historical account and the judgment made upon Banu Qurayza, concluded: “…though it seems harsh, Sa’d’s verdict was fair. First, this verdict accorded with [the Jews’] own laws. Second, the verdict was made by a mediator who was their own ally and they themselves had chosen him to arbitrate between them and Muhammad ().”

The prolific author and scholar of comparative religions, Karen Armstrong, states “… It is, however, important to note that the Qurayzah were not killed on religious or racial grounds. None of the other Jewish tribes in the oasis either objected or attempted to intervene, clearly regarding it as a purely political and tribal matter… The men of Qurayzah were executed for treason. The seventeen other Jewish tribes of Medina remained in the oasis, living on friendly terms with the Muslims for many years, and the Qur’an continued to insist that Muslims remember their spiritual kinship with the People of the Book…”

Therefore, it is clear from the detailed context of this incident that the charge of ethnic cleansing or genocide of the Jews of Medina is a baseless accusation.

Did Islam spread by the sword? Myth and reality

Among the most widely believed myths about Islam in the West today is the myth of forcible conversion to Islam.

Many Westerners believe that Islam is so widespread in the world today simply because of a “holy campaign of terror” carried out by the early Muslims to convert non-Muslims to Islam. They believe that non-Muslims were offered the freedom to choose between two things: Islam or death.

During a discussion, a Baptist Minister said: “Muslims tend to kill non-Muslims and anyone who disagrees with them”. In a syndicated column appearing in over 30 papers (on July 23, 1994) entitled, ‘Muslim Persecution of Christians Increasing’ the author blames many Muslim countries for persecuting Christians, then he quotes the Quran (which means): “There is no compulsion in religion” [Quran 2:256] and ends the quote by rudely writing: “Really?”

How to confront such misconceptions? First, there is no need for us to be apologetic. As Muslims, we should search for the truth and present it as it is. This is how we have been instructed by Allaah Almighty (which means): “Say: The truth from your Lord and let him who will believe and let him who will reject” [Quran 18:29]

Islam is the religion of the Truth and the Quran is the Book which testifies to the Truth; Allaah Says (what means): “We sent down the Quran in Truth and in Truth has it descended” [Quran 17:105]

And (what means): “Put your trust in Allaah for you are on the path of the manifest Truth” [Quran 27:79]

Therefore, we should ask ourselves first, before we are asked by anyone else: what is the truth? Did Muslims really force others to convert to Islam? Is there any evidence for consistent forcible conversion throughout Islamic history? In fact, there is no such evidence anywhere in the history of Islam. Many distinguished Western historians have attested to this fact — foremost among whom is Sir Thomas W. Arnold in his book, The Preaching of Islam. Similarly authors like, Marshall G. Hodgson, in his book The Venture of Islam, Albert Hourani in his book, A History of the Arab People, Ira Lapidus in his book, History of Islamic Societies, L.S. Starorianos in his book, A Global History: The Human Heritage and many others have testified to this.

On the contrary, there is substantial evidence that Muslims were often seen as liberators of the oppressed people everywhere.

The question that remains to be answered is: why have so many people chosen Islam in the 1400 years of its history? Islam has penetrated the Middle East, North Africa, Spain, West Africa, East Africa, Eastern Europe, Asia Minor, the Caucasus, Central Asia, Afghanistan, India, Western China and the Malay Archipelago. In all these regions, Islam replaced so many other well-established religions: Christianity, Zoroastrianism, Buddhism, Hinduism, Paganism and Animism. What are the reasons behind the triumph of Islam over all these religions?

First, Islam is an amazing blend of simplicity and rationality, as Professor Hodgson explains: “Muslims made a personal appeal to people’s religious consciousness. On the level of straight argument, they often put forward the populistic intelligibility of Islam. Muslims commonly ridiculed, in the name of intellectual good sense, the more mythically convoluted teachings of older traditions. This could seem attractively straightforward to people dissatisfied with taking things on faith from a learned priest whose mysteries they could not comprehend.

A single Creator, to be worshipped by each person for himself, based on revelation that had been given to a famous prophet whom millions already acknowledged. This was at once intelligible and plausible.”

The unambiguous and uncompromising belief in the Unity, Greatness and Wisdom of God, the Creator of the universe, is unparalleled among other religions. The French professor Edouard Montet said: “The dogma of the unity of God…has always been proclaimed in the Quran with a grandeur, a majesty, an invariable purity and with a note of pure conviction which is hard to find surpassed outside the pale of Islam. A creed so precise, so stripped of all theological complexities and so accessible to the ordinary understanding might be expected to possess and does indeed possess a marvelous power of winning its way into the consciences of men.”

Besides its simple and rational creed, Islam offers an impressive set of rituals, which has gained the admiration and, subsequently, the conversion of many non-Muslims. The second pillar of Islam, Salaah [prayer] has been described as follows by Sir Arnold: “The religion of the Muslim is continuously present with him and, in the daily prayer, manifests itself in a solemn and impressive ritual which cannot leave either the worshipper or the spectator unaffected.”

In addition to the prayers, the other pillars of Islam, Zakaah [alms tax distributed to the poor], Hajj (pilgrimage to Makkah), Siyaam (fasting in Ramadhaan), have always been factors in attracting many hearts to Islam. To this day, one still meets converts who were impressed by the social justice of Islam, brilliantly expressed in the payment of Zakaah, the unique congregation of the Hajj and Siyaam. Thus, it is the union of rationalism and Divine rituals that explains the power that Islam has exercised over the hearts and minds of so many people.

Islam simply presents the truth in a tangible form, with the help of a miraculous book: the Quran. The marvelous power and beauty of the words of the Quran have also been a decisive factor in the conversion of many people to Islam.

The famous Jewish American convert to Islam, Maryam Jameelah, cited the Quran as the major factor of her conversion. After a deep study of both the Old Testament and the Quran, the contrast between the two scriptures became increasingly evident to her until she firmly believed that the Quran was indeed God’s message to the human race.

A conference of Christian missionaries in 1887 was discussing why Islam has almost swept away Christianity from the Middle East. What did Islam offer these people to forsake Christianity for good? One of the missionaries was insightful enough to say the following: “Islam brought out the fundamental dogmas of the Unity and Greatness of God, that He is Mindful and Righteous. It proclaimed the responsibility of man, a future life, a Day of Judgment and stern retribution to fall upon the wicked, and enforced the duties of prayer, alms giving and fasting. It replaced monkishness by manliness; it gave hope to the slave, brotherhood to mankind and recognition to the fundamental facts of human nature.”

The formidable rationalism and clarity of Islam not only led the Christians of the Middle East to forsake Christianity and embrace Islam in the past, it continues to do so with Christians in the West to the present day.

A Muslim sister, from California, who was a practicing Christian and an active member in her nearby Presbyterian church, wrote in her conversion story. She said that in spite of her active affiliation with the church, she always had serious questions about the fundamentals of Christianity, which did not make sense to her. She debated her questions with her friends but they never came up with reasonable answers. The church could not give them answers either, but only told them to “have faith”. All her questions were answered when she took a course about Islam. Listen to her words:

“This class brought back all of the concerns that I had about Christianity. As I learned about Islam, all my questions were answered. All of us are not punished for Adam’s original sin. Adam asked God for forgiveness and our Merciful, Loving God forgave him. God doesn’t require a blood sacrifice in payment for sin. We must sincerely ask for forgiveness and amend our ways. Jesus wasn’t God; he was a prophet like all of the other prophets. This answered all of my questions about the trinity and the nature of Jesus. I found a teaching that put everything in its proper perspective and appealed to my heart and my intellect. It seemed natural. It wasn’t confusing. I had been searching and I had found a place to rest my faith.”

Islam is so strong and so self-assured that it does not need to use force to attract others to it. The moral and intellectual superiority of Islam over all other religions has manifested itself clearly throughout the history of Islam. Despite the ills that Muslims are facing everywhere, Islam continues to be the fastest growing religion on earth. Professor Huston Smith of the MIT in his book, The Religions of Man says:

“In some areas where Islam and Christianity are competing for converts, Islam is gaining at a rate of 10 to 1.”

The Prophet and Uniting the Muslim Ummah

The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) gathered his nation and united its decisions because he is the Seal of the Prophets and the leader of the Messengers sent by Allah. He is the leader of all who fight for the sake of Allah and he was sent as a mercy to all humanity and supported by the care of Allah the All-Mighty.

And to explain this, it can be said that that the noble Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) was able to fulfill such unity and solidarity thanks to many causes and means, such as the strength of his character, his sincere devotion to his message, as well as his detestation of the false idols that prevailed at that time; and, moreover, he implanted the hearts with a creed that was superior to the false and trivial pagan beliefs.

He lightened the hearts with the light of believing in the Glorious Creator Who owns all that is in the heavens and on earth. He firmly fixed this faith, practically and continuously, by the acts of worship his Lord revealed to him, such as Prayers, fasting, Zakah, Hajj, and other kinds of good deeds.

In addition to this, he purified the souls of his people of grudges and hatred; there was no room for aggression or injustice, no room for pride or insults, but rather brotherhood, love and equality because they were of one origin, and there was no privilege of an Arab over a non-Arab except through piousness.

Besides, he taught them that they have no actual power or might; that when they are self-conceited they will lose, but when they are proud of their Creator they will succeed and prosper; and that glory is to Allah, His Messenger and to the believers. This is why the Qur’an states in Surat Aal `Imran: “And hold fast, all of you together, to the cable of Allah, and do not separate…” (Aal `Imran: 103)

From such ways, also, the value of life and its pleasures was minimized in their eyes. As long as one looks down upon life, his humanity increases, and he deserves to gather all human beings under the roof of love and faithfulness. He also made them look forward to a marvelous Heaven and to live for an eternal life to come after this temporary life. And since for such causes competitors must work together and diverse people must cooperate, how will be the case with those with a common identity?

Moreover, he dyed the patriotic motive with a religious one and stated that to love your homeland is to believe, and to defend your property is part of good religion.

Such a strong heavenly bond joined all parties with a bond of solidarity and agreement, for they could not have authority over their lands and defend their sovereignty to please their Lord unless each and every one of them was a help and support to his brother, for one Muslim to another Muslim is like a solid wall (of bricks) supporting each other.

Finally, the Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) succeeded in uniting his Ummah and people because he turned them into a pious and faithful nation that works for its lifetime as if it will live forever and works for the Hereafter as if death will end it tomorrow. Therefore, this religion will only prosper by what caused its prosperity at the very beginning; as for those who are lagging behind, if they want to come forward, they have the way right in front of them.

Why Muhammad () didn’t die, God forbid, for Muslims’ sins

Though he is a mercy to all, Prophet Muhammad () (peace and blessings be upon him) did not die for Muslims’ sins. It is to be made clear that the entire concept of someone dying for our sins is in utter contradiction with the Islamic view of the nature of man and God. In Islam, every individual is responsible for his/her own salvation. Everyone, male or female, can directly approach God without any intermediary of a prophet, saint or priest.

“In order for us to be able to understand the Islamic position regarding this issue, it is important to be clear about certain points.

First, Islam, unlike Christianity, does not teach a concept of “original sin”.

Adam’s sin was his and his alone; and, according to the Qur’an (for the Qur’anic narration of the story of Adam and Eve, see: the Qur’an: 2: 30-39; 7; 19; 17: 61; 18: 50; 20: 116-17, etc.), God forgave both Adam and Eve when they turned to God in repentance; accordingly they were once again restored to divine mercy. Hence there is no concept of Adam passing on to his progeny an original sin, and therefore no need for stipulating a redeemer for such sins.

Second, as there is no original sin, everyone is born into a state of fitrah, a state of natural innocence; sin is acquired later by our own conscious and willful actions. The Prophet (peace and blessings be upon him) said, “Every child is born into a state of fitrah or natural state of innocence.”

Third, Islam teaches that God is All-Compassionate and All-Merciful; He is not bound by the rule of a blood sacrifice in order to forgive His servants. To assume that God can forgive only by accepting a blood sacrifice and therefore to state that Jesus or Muhammad () died for our sins is not acceptable in Islam. Allah says: “O My servants who have wronged against their souls! Do not despair of Allah’s mercy! For Allah forgives all sins; for He is indeed Forgiving,

Compassionate. Turn to your Lord repentant, and submit to Him before the torment overtakes you when you shall not be helped.” (Az-Zumar: 53-54)

Fourth, Islam teaches that every individual is responsible for his/her own salvation. Not Abraham, or Moses, or Jesus, or Muhammad () can save us; they are only capable of saving themselves through God’s grace. In the words of the Qur’an: “Whoever commits a sin commits it only against himself. Allah is Knowing, Wise.” (An-Nisa‘: 111); “Allah does not charge a soul with more than it can bear. It shall be requited for whatever good and whatever it has done.” (Al-Baqarah: 286); “Each soul earns only on its own account, nor does any laden (soul) bear another’s load.” (Al-An`am: 164) “He who is rightly guided, it is for himself; and he who goes astray, it is to his own detriment. No soul can bear another’s burden.” (Al-Isra‘: 15)

Fifth, everyone, male or female, can directly approach God without any intermediary of a prophet, saint or priest. God is closer to us than our own jugular veins. Almighty Allah says in the Qur’an: “We created man, and We know the promptings of his soul, and We are nearer to him than his own jugular vein.” (Qaf: 16) “When My servants ask you about Me, tell them I am nigh, ready to answer the prayer of the suppliant when he/she prays to Me; therefore let them respond to Me and believe in Me, that they may be rightly guided.” (Al-Baqarah: 186)

So the entire concept of someone dying for our sins is inimical to the Islamic world-view or understanding of the natures of man and God. Islam beckons us all to respond to God’s message and receive His grace and salvation through faith, good works and leading a responsible moral and ethical life.”

Why Prophets are Sent

Edited by: Prophet of Mercy staff

To Illuminate Humanity’s way

Today our greatest problem is that many do not recognize Prophet Muhammad (), and others neglect or refuse to follow his way. God sent Muhammad (), as he sent all previous Prophets, to illuminate our way, “God was gracious to the believers when he raised up among them a messenger from themselves who recite to them the verses of his book (Quran) and shows them his signs, purifies them, and instructs them in the book of wisdom. They were evidently in manifest misguidance.” {Quran 3:164}

God sent messengers to guide people to the truth and so they could be purified of sin. Those who were enlightened by the Messengers found the way to Divine presence and attained the highest rank of humanity. In the word of Ibrahim Haqqi, “God declared that he could not be contained by the heavens and earth. He can be known and reached only through hearts.” This is why messengers led humanity to the knowledge of God.”

Those who follow this guidance are touched by him in their innermost selves, whether it is called heart, soul, or conscience, for only that can grasp God in his entirety. Minds cannot comprehend him and philosophy cannot reach him. God left the Quran and the prophet’s Sunnah {sayings and doings} to show us how to live in the way that fulfills the purpose for which the prophets were sent. Here it is necessary to emphasize three points. First, prophets were not ordinary men; rather they were chosen men through whom God chose and paid great attention to their upbringing so that they would always seek to gain his approval. Like his predecessors Prophet Muhammad () always pursed God’s approval and good pleasure. His last words were, “The Highest abode” [God gave the prophet two choices before he died he could stay and live longer or die and go to heaven and his last words were the answer to this choice.] His wife Aisha gives the following account of his last moments, “I was with him during his last moments. When he became ill, he would ask me to pray for him and expecting my prayer to be accepted through his auspicious hand, I held his hand and prayed. During his last illness, I wanted to do the same and pray, when he suddenly withdrew his hand and said, ‘The highest abode.'”

Second, the world is never left devoid of successors who devote their lives to preaching and teaching the truth. They should seek what the prophets sought, preached what the prophets preached and strictly follow the prophet in enjoining and spreading good and discouraging and forbidding evil.

To Guide People to the Serves of God

God declared in the Quran, “I have not created jinn and humanity except to worship me.” {51:56}

We were not created only to eat drink and reproduce; these are natural fact of our life and natural needs. Our main purpose is to recognize and serve God. All prophets were sent to show us how to do things, “We never sent a messenger before you except that we revealed to him: “There is no God but I, so worship me.” {21:25}

“We sent forth among every nation a messenger, saying: “Worship God alone and avoid idols and tyrants Satan and his followers.” Then some of them God guided and some where justly disposed of to misguidance.” {Quran 16:36}

God sent prophets to guide us to his service. Their missions were the same. However, whereas the earlier prophets were sent to their own people and for a set period, Prophet Muhammad () was sent as a mercy to humanity and jinn, and for all time. According to an authentic hadith, narrated by Ibn Masud:

“Once God’s messenger and I went somewhere and he drew a circle around me and told me not to leave it until he returned. He left, and after a while some tumult broke out on the other side. I wondered whether something had happened to him, but as he told me to stay put until he returned, I did so. Sometime later he returned and I asked him about the uproar. He replied: “The jinn have believed and taken an oath of allegiance to me. When some of them insisted on unbelief, fighting broke out. The uproar you hear d was the fighting. This applies that my life is about to end.”

Muhammad () used this last sentence to indicate that he had been sent to open the way to the guidance of humanity and jinn. Once this had been done, there would be no reason for him to live, for he would have nothing more to do. This also implies that believers should never neglect their essence duties here, and should pray, as instructed by God’s messenger, “O God, make me die if death is good for me; or else, make me live long as long as living is good for me!” {Bukhari}

To Teach People God’s Law

Another purpose for sending prophets is to reveal divine commandments (i.e. the five daily prayers, fasting Ramadan, giving charity, not indulging in any illicit sexual relations, alcohol, and gambling). This function is called messenger-ship according to the Quran, “They deliver the message of God and do not fear anyone except God.”{Quran 33:39} In addition God told Muhammad ():

“O messenger, deliver that which has been sent down to you from your Lord; for if you do not, you will have not conveyed his message. God protects you against people; verily God will not guide the people of unbelief.” {Quran 5:67}

The messenger was sent to enlighten humanity about all dimensions of human life. Any neglect in delivering God’s message would amount to leaving humanity in darkness.

To Be Examples

Prophets were sent to serve as examples that must be followed consciously. God told his last messenger, “Those are they whom God had guided, so follow their guidance.” {Quran 6:90} In particular, we are told to follow Muhammad ()’s example, “You have a good example in God’s messenger (Muhammad ()) for whoever hopes for the meeting with God and the Last Day, and remembers God much.” {Quran 33:21} Muhammad () is our leader, just as we pray as he prayed; we must strive to live as he lived.

To Establish Balance

At a time when some people lived in monasteries and others drowned in luxury, Prophet Muhammad () came with the Quranic instruction, “But Seek, with that wealth which God had bestowed on you, the home of the hereafter and do not forget your portion of the lawful enjoyment of the present world.” {Quran 28:77}

All prophets came to establish balance between material and spiritual life, reason and soul, this world and the next, and indulgence and abstinence. While we should declare all that God has bestowed on us to show our gratitude and due praise for him, “And as for your Lord’s blessing and bounty, declare it.” {Quran 93:11}, we must not forget that we will have to account for every good we enjoy, “Then on that day you shall be asked about the delights (you indulged in, in this world)!” {Quran 102:8}

The prophet inculcated this principle so deeply in his companion’s hearts that it could be seen in every aspect of their lives. For example, once when breaking fast during Ramadan, Abu Bakr, the first caliph, was offered a glass of cold water. He had just taken a sip when he suddenly burst into tears and stopped drinking. When asked why, he replied, “Once I was with God’s messenger and he acted as if he were pushing something with his hand and saying to it, ‘Keep away from me!’ I asked him what he was doing, and he replied, ‘The world appeared to me in an ideal form, with all its pomp and luxury. I pushed it away, saying, “Leave me. You can’t seduce me.” It withdrew and said, “I can’t conquer you, but I swear by God I’ll captivate those who come after you.'” After narrating this hadith, Abu Bakr concluded, “Just now, I thought that the world tempted me with a glass of cold water, and I wept.” {Bukhari and Muslim}

Abu Bakr and most companions lived a balanced life, despite the fact hat they had every chance to live in comfort.

To be God’s Witness

Prophets also were sent so that people cannot plead ignorance in the Hereafter. Regarding this, the Quran says, “Messengers as bearers of good news as well as a warning in order that mankind should have no plea against God after the coming of messengers and God is ever all powerful, all wise.” {Quran 4:165}

Humanity, who has followed many so-called guides or leaders only to be lead astray, had received true guidance through the prophets. These servants of God were created for a special mission. Already prophets in their mothers’ wombs, their births were extraordinary. The extraordinary harmony in the universe displays God’s existence and unity. Nothing is created in vain and without purpose, “Does humanity think that he will be left neglected (with out being brought to account for the obligatory duties enjoined by God on him)?” {Quran 75:36}

If prophets had not been sent, we might have had an argument against being punished in the hereafter. But, as the Quran states: “We never punish until we have sent a messenger.” {Quran17:15}, God must sent prophets to that people cannot plead ignorance when they must defend their actions in the Day of Judgment.

Predictions of Muhammad ()’s Prophethood

It is a very well established fact that all the prophets that came before gave tidings of yet another prophet yet to come. People of the time of Muhammad () were expecting a prophet to rise up from among them as well. Let’s take a look at what the Quran, Old and New Testament and what some others say about the coming of a prophet.

Abraham asked God to send unto the people a messenger from among the Arabs. The Quran says, “Our Lord! Send amongst them a messenger of their own who shall recite unto them your verses and instruct them in the book (Quran) and the wisdom and purify them. Verily! You are the all-mighty, the all-wise.” {Quran 2:129}

God tells us in the Quran that Jesus himself even gave us news of a prophet to come, “And remember when Jesus son of Mary said: “O children of Israel! I am the messenger of God unto you, confirming the Torah which came before me, and giving glad tidings of a messenger to come after me, whose name shall be Ahmad (Ahmad or Muhammad () share the same root in Arabic and both mean the one who praises God). But when he (Muhammad ()) came to them with clear proofs, they said: “This is plain magic.” {Quran 61:6}

The Quran say that all messengers took a covenant, “And Remember when God took the covenant of the prophet, saying: “Take whatever I gave you from the book and the wisdom, and afterwards there will come to you a messenger confirming what is with you; you must, then, believe in him and help him.” God said: “Do you agree to it and will you take up my covenant which I conclude with you?” They said: “We agree.” He said: “Then bear witness; and I am with you among the witnesses.”{Quran 3:81}

The Quran also mentions what the Old and New Testaments say about his coming, “Those who follow the messenger, the prophet who can neither read nor write(i.e. Muhammad ()) whom they find written with them in the Torah (Old Testament – Deuteronomy 15) and the Gospel (New Testament – John 16), – he commands them for Monotheism; and forbids them from polytheism; he allows them as lawful all things good, and prohibits them as unlawful all things evil, he releases them from their heavy burdens of God covenants with the children of Israel and from the fetters (bindings) that were upon them. So those who believe in him (Muhammad ()), honor him, help him and follow the light (Quran) which has been sent down with him, it is they who will be successful.” {Quran 7:157}

A companion of the prophet once asked him to talk about himself. He Said, “I’m the one for whose coming Abraham prayed for and of whom Jesus gave glad tidings.”

People of Arabia knew a prophet was coming. The Ansar (Natives of Medina, but the word literally means helpers, as the Natives of Medina helped the immigrants from Mecca) related in Mutawaatir that the Jews of Medina had informed them of the coming of the messenger of God and they knew he would be Arab. This is one of the reasons the people of Medina accepted Muhammad () so quickly when he preached Islam to them. We find in: “Saheeh As-Seerah An-Nabawiyyah” that Salamah ibn Salamah Waqsh, an Ansar and one of the Muslims who participated in the Battle of Badr said, “We had a Jewish neighbor who lived among the clan of Banu Abd-Al-Ashhal. Just prior to the advent of Islam of the prophet this neighbor left his house came out to us, and sat in the gathering of Abd-Al-Ashhal. He said, ‘A Prophet will be sent in the direction of these lands.’ And he pointed towards Mecca and Yemen. They asked, ‘And when will we see him.’ The Jewish man looked at me – as I was one of the youngest people among them – and said, ‘When this boy exhausts his years (i.e. reaches old age), he will be around when the prophet is sent.’ By God the days and nights did not depart for me until God sent his messenger, who was alive in our midst. We believed in him but that very same Jewish man disbelieved in him, out of jealousy and as a form of transgression…”

Muhammad ()’s own grandfather Abd Al-Muttalib believed he would be a prophet and he was not the only one. His ancestor Kab ibn Luayy said, “Suddenly Prophet Muhammad () will appear; he will give tidings, and is truthful in his tidings.”

The Jews at that time knew of his coming and even his own family knew he would someday be the prophet that every one said was coming. The Christians knew of his coming as well. The following is the story of Khadija’s, the prophets wife, cousin whose name was Waraqa ibn Nawfal and who happened to be a Christian scholar. When Khadija had told him about the first revelation, he said, “Muhammad () is a truthful man. What he saw is what occurs at the beginning of prophethood. The being who came to him is Gabriel, who also came to Moses and Jesus. Muhammad () will be a prophet. If I live long enough to witness his declaration of prophethood, I will believe in him and support him.” {Bukhari}

The Following is the story of Muhammad ()’s meeting with a monk named Bahira; Abu Talib took hi nephew on a trading caravan to Syria when he was 10 or 12 years old. They stopped near Damascus and left him to watch the caravan. From the monastery, the Christian monk Bahira was observing the caravan. He was expecting the arrival of the last prophet, and so always studied people. He noticed that a cloud followed the caravan, stopping and starting when it did so, so as to shade on of its members. He thought, “This is a special characteristic of prophets. The expected prophet must be in that caravan.” When it stopped near his monastery, Bahira invited its members over for a meal. Noticing the cloud still hovering over the caravan, he asked Abu Talib is someone remained behind. Abu Talib answered that they had left a young boy to watch over things. The monk asked them to fetch him. When Muhammad () cam, Bahira took Abu Talib to one side and asked him about his relationship to this boy. “He is my son.” Abu Talib answered, but Bahira disputed this, saying: “He can’t be your son. According to our books, his father must have died before his birth.” Then he added, “Let me give you this advice, take this boy back immediately. The Jews are envious. If they recognize him, they will harm him.” Abu Talib made an excuse to the other caravan members and returned to Mecca with his Nephew. On a second trade journey the prophet meet Bahira once more and he said, “You will be a prophet, the last prophet. I wish God would allow me to live to see you raised up as a prophet. I would follow you, carry your shoes and protect you against your enemies!” {Ibn Hisham}

Salmaan Al-Faarisee originally a fire worshiper set off from his homeland Persia to seek the truth. He traveled to many places and a monk once said to him, “Verily, the time of a prophet, who will be sent with the religion of Abraham draws near. He will appear in the land of the Arabs, and he will migrate to a land that is situated between Harratain (land that is replete with volcanic rocks). Between them are date-palm trees. He will have with him signs that are not hidden: He eats from what is given to him as a gift, but he doesn’t eat what is given as charity; and the stamp of prophethood is located between his shoulders. If you are able to go to those lands, then do so.”{As-Seerah An-Nabawiyyah by Ibn Katheer}

Salmaan eventually made it to Medina but along the way he was mistakenly captured and turned into a slave. Shortly after his arrival the prophet migrated to Medina. Putting the monks words to the test, he went to the prophet, gave him food telling him he was giving it in charity. The prophet gave it to his companions but did not partake of it himself. He later gave more food this time saying it was a gift and so the prophet gave some to his companions and partook of some himself. And yet on another occasion he happened to see with his own eyes the stamp of prophethood between the prophet’s shoulders and then Salmaan immediately embraced Islam. {Refer to As-Seerah An-Nabawiyyah As-Saheehah by Al-Umaree}

Another who was waiting for the appearance of the prophet was Umar Ibn Khattab’s uncle, Zayd ibn Amr According to Amr ibn Rabia, Zayd gave a description of the expected prophet, “I am expecting a prophet that is about to come. He will appear among Ishmael’s descendents and Abd Al-Muttalib’s grandsons. He is of middle height, neither too tall nor too short. His hair is neither curly nor strait. His name is Ahmed. His birth place is Mecca. His people will force him to leave Mecca, and he will emigrate to Yathrib, where his religion will spread. I have traveled from place to place searching for Abraham’s religion. However, all the Jewish and Christian scholars I spoke to advised me to wait for him. He is the last prophet; no prophet will come after him. I may not live long enough to see him, but I have believed in him.” {Ibn Katheer, Al-Bidaya}

The awaited prophet as described in the Old and New Testaments:

“The Lord said to me (Moses): “What they say is good. I will raise up for them a prophet like you among their brothers; I will put my words in his mouth, and he will tell them everything I command him. If anyone does not listen to my words that the prophet speaks in my name, I will myself call him to account.” {Deuteronomy 18: 17-19} This is not describing Jesus as some Christians claim as Moses is not similar to Jesus and the verse clearly states that the coming prophet will be like Moses.

“He will rule from sea to sea and from river to the ends of the earth. The desert tribes will bow before him, and his enemies will lick the dust. The kings of Tarsish and of distant shores will bring tribute to him; the kings of Sheba and Seba will present gifts to him. All Kings will bow down to him and all nations will serve him, for he will deliver the needy who cry out, the afflicted who have no one to help. He will take pity on the needy, and save needy from death. He will rescue them from oppression and violence, for precious is their blood in his sight. Long may he live! May gold from Sheba be given to him. May people ever pray for him and bless him all day long. Let corn abound throughout the land; on top of the hills may it sway. May his name endure for ever; may it continue as long as the sun. All nations will be blessed through him, and they will call him blessed.” {Psalms 72:8-17}

“But I tell you the truth; it is for you good that I am going away. Unless I go away, the Paraklit (the Greek word meaning, the distinguisher between truth and falsehood, one who is much praised, counselor, helper or comforter the translation depends on which bible you read) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. When he comes, he will convict the world of guilt in regard to sin and righteousness and judgment. {John 16: 7-8}

“When Paraklit comes – the spirit of truth – who comes from the father, he will testify about me. {John 15:26}

“I have much more to say to you, more than you can bear now. But when he, the spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking what is mine and making it known to you. {John 16:12-14}

“I will not speak to with you much longer, for the prince of this world is coming. And I posses nothing of him.” {John 14:30}

Ibn Taymiyyah (8th century Egyptian scholar) said, “In a copy of the Psalms (Zaboor) I read a clear mention of the prophethood of Muhammad () and he was even mentioned by name. I saw another copy of the Psalms (Zaboor) in which no such mention is made (which points to corruption).” {Al-Jawaab As-Saheeh}

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