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The Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad was a Forgiving Man

The Truth:

Muhammad did forgive, but his grace was conspicuously limited to those who accepted Islam (often under duress).  Modern-day apologists are prone to “forgetting” this as they attempt to make the case that their prophet was a sort of Christ-like figure.  Obscure details are cherry-picked from Muhammad’s early life and divorced from context even as more numerous and less ambiguous mitigating events are conveniently omitted.

Consider this little gem from CAIR’s Ibrahim Hooper:

“Even when the prophet was in a position of power, he chose the path of kindness and reconciliation.

When he returned to Mecca after years of exile and personal attacks, he did not take revenge on the people of the city, but instead offered a general amnesty.” (source)

Hooper’s definition of “general amnesty” is amazingly selective.  Muhammad’s biographer lists at least ten Meccans whom the prophet of Islam ordered put to death for personal insults or for apostasy (leaving Islam).  If the fact that an entire city wasn’t put to the sword after being conquered by a man against whom it did not want to fight is proof of forgiveness, then we would have to say that the bar is being set quite low.

In fact, we have noted elsewhere at least five good reasons to believe that Muhammad was not a forgiving man.

  1. The fact that he attacked Meccan caravans that were not attacking him, literally killing innocent drivers because of their city’s previous rejection of him.
  2. The brutal execution of 800 Jews at Qurayza who had killed no one but belonged to a tribe whose leader was pressed to switch loyalties in a time of conflict.
  3. The killing of Uqba for the crime of mocking him at Mecca.
  4. The executions ordered at Medina of those who had insulted him (here, here and here).
  5. The executions ordered at Mecca of those who had insulted him.

It was Muhammad’s unwillingness to forgive the people of Mecca for rejecting him that drove him to attack them at every opportunity, even though they were not bothering him at Medina.  Though given ample opportunity to move on, he refused.  Instead the prophet of Islam incited his followers with verses ‘from Allah’ that demanded they “drive out” the Meccans from their own city – purely out of revenge, personal superiority and entitlement.

Those who were spared at Mecca, following its capture by an army of 10,000 Muslims, were allowed to live because they either had nothing to do with the former harassment of Muhammad or because they accepted Islam.  The allegiance of both groups was needed by the prophet of Islam to expand his political authority over surrounding tribes through military expansion.  In a matter of months, Muhammad was no longer in need of their services and ordered the eviction all those who refused to convert.  Anyone who declined to embrace his religion was chased from their own city at the point of a sword (see Qur'an Sura 9).

Interestingly, one of the neighboring towns that Muhammad opportunistically attacked after taking Mecca was Taif.  This is somewhat ironic because Muhammad’s earlier brush with the people of that town is actually noted by contemporary apologists as an example of his forgiving character!  Here, again, is Ibrahim Hooper’s version:

In another tradition, the prophet was offered the opportunity to have God punish the people of a town near Mecca who refused the message of Islam and attacked him with stones.  Again, the prophet did not choose to respond in kind to the abuse. (source)

It bears mentioning that neither the accounts of Muhammad's "stoning" nor Allah’s "offer" to Muhammad are recorded by the earliest and most reliable accounts of the episode.  Instead, they show that Muhammad was chased away from the city with verbal insults after showing up uninvited and abusing the local religion with insults. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 279-281).

Hooper is certainly right about Muhammad not responding in kind, however, since that would have meant insulting the residents and rejecting their religion (as they had done to him).  Instead, the prophet of Islam returned with an army ten years later and laid siege to the town, killing the defenders and enslaving their women and children.  His biographers provide no compelling reason for this other than their earlier rejection of him (unless you count a Muslim foot soldier’s desire to capture a girl from Taif and impregnate her – Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 874).

The fact that Muhammad returned with an army casts serious doubt on the later tradition that Hooper cites.  If Muhammad rejected the opportunity to call down Allah’s wrath on the town, then why did he return with military force as soon as he was able to do so?  The only thing that had changed in the interim was his position of power.

Even if the later (and more questionable) account of Allah's offer is taken at face value, it relies solely on Muhammad’s word.  Just as with the rest of his communication with Allah, no one else was there to witness the conversation.  Is it really credible that Muhammad actually had the power to call down divine punishment on a town?  Why then was a later siege necessary – particularly since it cost Muslim lives (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 876)?

According to biographers, Muhammad originally went to Taif with the hope of forming a new military alliance against the Quraish tribe of Mecca.  Interestingly,Muhammad later had people murdered for supposedly trying to do the same thing to him.  For this reasons, apologists often insist that it was necessary for reasons of self-defense.  But this makes no sense if Muhammad truly had the wrath of Allah at his beck and call.  Muslims cannot have it both ways.

Another example that proves both the scarcity of anecdote showing Muhammad to be a forgiving man - and the desperation of contemporary apologists to compensate - is the repetition of this legendary story (again, we quote CAIR's Ibrahim Hooper):

There was a lady who threw garbage in the path of the prophet on a daily basis. One day, she didn‘t do it. The prophet went to inquire about her health, because he thought she might be sick. This lady ended up converting to Islam. So, that‘s how you respond to people who attack you, with forgiveness and with kindness.

The story is legendary because it is a legend, which is why apologists do not quote the source.  In fact, the fictitious episode was invented nearly thirteen centuries after Muhammad died.  Not only that, but it was created as a means of defense against Islamic intolerance by Abdul Baha, a founding member of the Baha'i cult.  (It didn't work.  To this day his followers continue to suffer horrible persecution in Muslim countries).

The real story of what happened to the woman who insulted Muhammad is found in the Hadith:

A Jewish woman used to insult the Prophet and say bad things about him, so a man strangled her until she died, and the Prophet ruled that no blood money was due in this case.  (Abu Dawud 4349)

The mere fact that apologists like CAIR's Hooper substitute historical fact with suspect narrative, half-truth and outright deception to convince the rest of us that their prophet was a man of forgiveness is evidence that this is not the case.  Muhammad did not reason with people once he had power; he demanded strict obedience, whihc is confirmed by many episodes of violent retaliation and punishment.

After killing many of those who insulted him, Muhammad's own community was in such fear that they would even killed their own family members who were critical of him to avoid his vengeance.  One man actually killed his own wife in the presence of their young children:

A blind man had a slave-mother [his wife, the mother of his children] who used to abuse the Prophet (pbuh) and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (pbuh) and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there.  Abu Dawud 38:4348.

Muhammad was told about the gruesome murder the next day and offered his approval.  The woman may have been a care-giver to the blind, but she had personally insulted him and therefore deserved to die.  That is the lesson in "forgiveness" that the prophet of Islam left his people.
 

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