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The Quran

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"I’d rather die standing up
than live on my knees."
Stephane Charbonnier

Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

Muhammad was a
Brave Warrior Who
Trusted Allah to Protect Him

"Our Prophet (peace be upon him)
was without fear of death."

The Truth:

So strong is the cult of personality in Islam that most Muslims fail to recognize the contrast between Muhammad's word and deeds. There are many places where Muhammad says that he trusts Allah to protect him:
O Messenger! Make known that which hath been revealed unto thee from thy Lord, for if thou do it not, thou wilt not have conveyed His message. Allah will protect thee from mankind. Lo! Allah guideth not the disbelieving folk. (Quran 5:67, see also 8:30)

Nor can a soul die except by Allah's leave… (Quran 3:145)
He also encourages his men to believe that they will be safe, even to the point of being reckless in battle:
[Auf bin Harith asked] “O Allah’s apostle, what makes Allah laugh with joy at his servant?"  He answered, “When he plunges into the midst of the enemy without mail. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 445)
As it turns out, Auf took his advice and did exactly that:
Auf drew off the mail-coat that was on him and threw it away: then he seized his sword and fought the enemy till he was slain. (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 445)
Auf’s fate at the Battle of Badr must have made an impression on Muhammad because the next time the prophet of Islam went into battle (at Uhud) he was sure to put on two coats of armor beforehand! (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 560). 

Other parts of the Battle of Uhud seem to support the idea that Muhammad was having second thoughts about the ability of Allah and his angels to protect him.  He not only planted himself firmly at the rear of his army, but also made sure that he was surrounded by a small group of bodyguards.  This was a strategic decision that actually backfired when the enemy unexpectedly outflanked the Muslims and advanced directly into his area.

Allah’s angels were nowhere to be found, and Muhammad, desperate to save his own skin, began selling paradise to the men around him in exchange for their lives:
It has been reported on the authority of Anas b. Malik that (when the enemy got the upper hand) on the day of the Battle of Uhud, the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) was left with only seven men from the Ansar and two men from the Quraish. When the enemy advanced towards him and overwhelmed him, he said: Whoso turns them away from us will attain Paradise or will be my Companion in Paradise.  A man from the Ansar came forward and fought (the enemy) until he was killed.  The enemy advanced and overwhelmed him again and he repeated the words: Whoso turns them away, from us will attain Paradise or will be my Companion in Paradise.  A man from the Ansar came forward and fought until he was killed.  This state continued until the seven Ansar were killed (one after the other). Muslim 19:4413)
As the passage relates, seven men stepped forward, one-by-one, to be slain in defense of Muhammad on the promise that they would be his “companion in paradise.”  (None appeared to question why Muhammad himself was so anxious to avoid the wonderful hereafter).

One man named Abu Dujana “made his body a shield for the apostle” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 573). According to the account, his back literally bristled with arrows until he fell over dead.

For his part, Muhammad managed to flee the battle for the safety of a nearby mountain:
“The apostle made for a rock on the mountain to climb it. He had become heavy by reason of his age, and moreover he had put on two coats of mail so when he tried to get up he could not so.  Talha squatted beneath him and lifted him up until he settled comfortably up on it.” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 577)
As one might expect, the period immediately following the rout of the Muslims at Uhud was somewhat of an awkward moment for the self-proclaimed prophet, given the smack that he had been talking after the victory at Badr (See Sura 8).  Many Muslims had been killed at Uhud and their bodies mutilated afterwards. 

Even Muhammad, the apostle of mighty Allah, had been injured in the face from a thrown rock (perhaps as he was peeking out from behind the others in search of somewhere to run).  The blood seemed to be at odds with his pretentious claim of being Allah’s chosen one, given that his god obviously declined to catch the rock in midair.

At first Muhammad appears to try to regain the confidence of his people with a boastful war story to distract attention from his facial injury.  He claimed to have killed the man who did it:
[Muhammad] used the water to wash the blood from his face and as he poured it over his head he said: “The wrath of Allah is fierce against him who bloodied the face of His prophet” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 576). 
Muhammad also forbade the dead from being brought back and buried at Medina, which would have deepened the humiliation of his fledgling religion and further undermined confidence in him (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 586).

What ensued next was a series of excuses to explain the defeat at Uhud, which are detailed in the third sura of the Qur’an.  The weakest excuse offered is that the debacle was necessary to “test” the believers so that “Allah may know those who believe” (3:140).  Perhaps someone then asked the obvious question of how an omniscient Allah was otherwise unable to know this, which inspired several additional excuses.

Muhammad’s next try was to blame a contingent of “hypocrites” who failed to accompany them into battle (3:167).  But this had also been the case at Badr, where the Muslims had been victorious due to Allah’s angels (seen only by Muhammad, of course).  Why no angels this time?

Finally, Muhammad simply blamed the sin of the people for their own defeat and told them to beg for his forgiveness.  They had pushed him into a battle that he did not want, and then fought poorly, even “abandoning the messenger” (3:153) whose presence Allah had been so generous in blessing them with (3:164).  Clearly the people had let Muhammad down, but he and Allah promised to be magnanimous if the people acknowledged their error (3:152).

For good measure, Muhammad also added that the Devil made them do it (3:155).

The master of psychology eventually regained the confidence of his people, particularly after a fresh series of raids against Meccan caravans that continued the flow of pilfered goods into the community. 

Muslim sycophancy remains to this day.  Compare the historical account of Muhammad’s desperation and flight at Uhud with this commentary by 20th century translator, Yusuf Ali that is downright hilarious against the eyewitness account:
“There was no rout… Had it not been for [Muhammad’s] firmness, courage, and coolness, all would have been lost.” (Yusuf Ali margin note #442).
Yeah...  As for Muhammad, he was no longer taking chances on "Allah’s protection."  In fact, he actually immortalized the obligation of his people to protect him with their weapons in the Qur’an, even to the point of allowing his bodyguards to carry them into a mosque if he was present:
When thou (O Messenger) art with them, and standest to lead them in prayer, Let one party of them stand up (in prayer) with thee, Taking their arms with them: When they finish their prostrations, let them Take their position in the rear.  And let the other party come up which hath not yet prayed - and let them pray with thee, Taking all precaution, and bearing arms... (Quran 4:102)
Although part of Allah’s “eternal word” to man, these instructions concerning his personal bodyguards have absolutely no relevance today, unless it is to encourage Muslim fundamentalists in their persistent practice of hiding weapons at mosques and even staging terror attacks from them.Finally, there is strong evidence that Muhammad died from having been poisoned, or at least that he thought this was the case.  His death was not pleasant.  According to his biographer, “he suffered much pain” (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 1006).

Perhaps one reason that contemporary Muslims are unwilling to accept this account is that it contradicts the claim of divine protection.  But even the Quran mentions that by then “Allah’s apostle” was relying on his own security service.

Further Reading:


Myths of Muhammad Index

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