The Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

The Muslims were Persecuted and
Suffered Many Deaths at Mecca

The Truth:

It’s true that there was persecution of the Muslims at Mecca, but the extent of the suffering is greatly exaggerated by modern-day storytellers, who are desperate to justify subsequent Muslim aggression.

It is important to note that Muhammad himself was the source of bitterness against the early Muslims, yet he was protected from personal consequence by his powerful uncle, Abu Talib.  Muhammad’s biographer recorded many instances in which the leading men of Mecca beseeched Muhammad (either directly or through his uncle) to stop mocking the religion of their ancestors:

Abu Sufyan, with other sundry notables, went to Abu Talib and said: "You know the trouble that exists between us and your nephew, so call him and let us make an agreement that he will leave us alone and we will leave him alone; let him have his religion and we will have ours." (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 278)
Muhammad felt safe in rejecting their peace offering because he did not have to be accountable for the trouble that he was causing.  This undoubtedly compounded the frustration of the local leaders, some of whom then took it out on other Muslims over whom they had power.  These were primarily slaves and lower ranking family members.

Modern apologists are fond of repeating an apocryphal tale concerning the martyring of an elderly woman named Umm Summayah.  She was one of the first converts to Islam and a slave of Abu Jahl, an adversary of Muhammad.  According to the contemporary version of the tale, Umm Summayah died of a spear thrust from Abu Jahl.  Unfortunately, there is scant evidence to support this (it is not contained in reliable accounts and even Ibn Kathir admits that authenticity is "lacking" vol.1 p.331).

It is more likely that Umm Summayah died of stress while exposed to the heat at Mecca:

The B. Makhzum used to take out Ammar bin Yasir with his father mother, who were Muslims, in the heat of the day and expose them to the heat of Mecca, and the Apostle passed by them and said, so I have heard, 'Patience, O family of Yasir!  Your meeting place will be paradise."  They killed his mother, for she refused to abandon Islam.  (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 206)

This is the only recorded death of a Muslim who had suffered persecution at Mecca.  It is not supported by either Bukhari or Sahih Muslim, although Ibn Sa'd does make a reference to the event that appears to be based on Ibn Ishaq/Hisham's account.  It is unclear why there is not more emphasis and provided detail concerning the death of Umm Summayah if she were actually bayoneted.  (Interestingly, there is more evidence to support the death of Muhammad's own daughter from the stress of Muslim persecution following her father's death).

Beyond this curious event, which would have occurred after the Muslims became physically aggressive with Abu Jahl and the polytheists, there is nothing else to substantiate the wild tales of deadly abuse that contemporary Muslims are fond of claiming.

It is critical to note that, despite the detailed list of indictments against the Meccans that are scattered liberally and redundantly throughout the Qur'an, the holiest book of Islam never once says that any Muslims were actually killed by their adversaries during the thirteen years prior to their eviction.  Instead, the worst of crimes is detailed in Sura 2:217:

"...but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque, and drive out its members."

Allah's indictment against the Meccans is that they evicted Muhammad from Mecca (the only eviction of record) and were denying he and some of the other Muslims the ability to visit the Kaaba during pilgrimage.

There is no mention of death inflicted on the early Muslims.  Instead the same verse attempts to convince them that they are justified in killing Meccans merely for not wanting to have anything to do with them.  The verse goes on to say:

"Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter"

At the time, Muhammad was urging his people to attack merchant caravans from Mecca, which involved killing the drivers and stealing the goods.  This became the primary source of income for the Muslims at Medina, and Muhammad became a wealthy man by appropriating a fifth of all loot collected for himself (on Allah's command, of course).

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