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List of Attacks

It's much easier to act as if critics of Islam have a problem with Muslims as people than it is to accept the uncomfortable truth that Islam is different


The Quran


List of Attacks

Last 30 Days
2001 (Post 9/11)

What can we learn about
Islam from this woman?

Myths of Muhammad

The Myth:

The Muslims were
Attacked by the
Meccans at Medina

"Our Prophet (peace be upon him) and his people were constantly harassed and attacked by the polytheists after the hijra to Medina."

The Truth:

This myth owes its origin to the need Muslim apologists have to justify Muhammad's attacks on the Quraish, as well as the more violent passages of the Quran’s second chapter, which was narrated shortly after Muhammad arrived in Medina following the hijra

Passages from this chapter encourage violence within the context of ending “tumult,” "oppression," and "fitna."  Contemporary Muslim readers usually apply their personal definitions to these terms and assume that the Muslims in Medina must have been under attack at the time.

Unfortunately, what Muhammad meant by “oppression” is well-defined within the historical record, and it is quite different from the popular modern-day view.  In fact, it was the Meccans who were generally acting in their own defense during this time.

Historians do not record any act of aggression by the Meccan Quraish against the Muslims during the time at which the second sura was narrated by Muhammad.  There were no armies marching against them, nor any plans for such.  The Meccans had little influence in this far-away town, and Muslims were not under persecution at the time by any stretch of the term, as it is understood today. 

According to the sequence of events in the Sira (biography), the Meccans were quite content with leaving Muhammad alone following his eviction (even though he had made a pledge of war against them).  Ibn Kathir narrates one of the adversaries as saying, "Once he has gone, we shouldn't care where he ends up or what happens to him. So long as he is gone, we'll be rid of him and we'll be able to restore our affairs as they were before." (Vol.2 p.152).  And they did... or tried to, anyway.

Muhammad's pride was hurting from his ouster, and his credibility as Allah's chosen messenger was damaged.  He wanted revenge.  He used "revelations" from Allah to convince his followers that their eviction from Mecca was grounds for marching back with a vengeful army (ie. 2:193 – “fitna is worse than slaughter”).

But it was entirely reasonable for the Meccans to evict Muhammad and prevent his return.  In the first place, the prophet of Islam had declared himself to be an armed revolutionary against them.  What town would invite a sworn enemy back within its own gates?  (Indeed, the Meccans were foolish enough to do exactly that a few years later and paid for it with the loss of their city and way of life).

The second reason that the Meccans did not want Muhammad anywhere near their town was that Islam was intolerant of other faiths and demanded sole possession of the Kaaba, the common worship area.  In other words, it wasn’t that the Meccans had a problem with Muslims circling the Kaaba, it was that Muslims wanted to bar everyone else from doing so.  In fact, after Muhammad eventually returned to capture the city in 630, he ordered the eviction of anyone who refused to convert to Islam (Quran, 9:18-19).

Against this reality, the words of Sura 2 take on a different meaning:
“And slay them wherever ye find them, and drive them out of the places whence they drove you out, for fitna is worse than slaughter.  And fight not with them at the Inviolable Place of Worship until they first attack you there, but if they attack you (there) then slay them.  Such is the reward of disbelievers… And fight them until fitna is no more, and religion is for Allah (Sura 2:191, 193)
Although apologists are fond of claiming that this passage is limited to matters of self-defense, the historical context does not agree.  Instead the verse is a justification for aggression in the cause of advancing Islamic rule. As we have pointed out, Muhammad and his Muslims were not under attack by the Meccans.  They were not being slaughtered, hence the obvious distinction in the verse between “persecution” and slaughter.

Sura 47 was also "revealed" at this time... and it is quite revealing:
Verily, those who disbelieve, and hinder (men) from the Path of Allah (i.e. Islam); then die while they are disbelievers, Allah will not forgive them. So be not weak and ask not for peace while you are having the upper hand. (Quran 47:34-35)
So, far from being persecuted, Muslims actually had the upper hand.  Many wanted to live in peace, but Muhammad told them that Allah wanted them to go capture caravans instead (this pertained to the Battle of Badr).  Only two rationales are given: the unbelief of the disbelievers and that they are "hindering men from the path of Allah."  There is nothing about self-defense or (non-religious) capital crimes on the part of the intended victims.

The “persecution” that apologists speak of today meant simply that Muslims living 300 miles away in Medina were barred from visiting Mecca and entering the “sacred mosque” (the Kaaba).  Muhammad was trying to convince his people that this (non-lethal) policy was justification for attacking and slaughtering the Meccans in the name of religion.

Making this rationale all the thinner is the fact that that Muslims in Medina were allowed to conduct pilgrimages to Mecca.  Muhammad's bloodlust for revenge was so intense that he even vowed to kill those Quraish who were kind enough to host the Muslim pilgrims:
Sa`d bin Mu`adh came to Mecca with the intention of performing `Umra [the haj], and stayed at the house of Umaiya bin Khalaf Abi Safwan... [an argument later ensues with a third party]... Umaiya kept on saying to Sa`d, "Don't raise your voice." and kept on taking hold of him. Sa`d became furious and said, (to Umaiya), "Be away from me, for I have heard Muhammad saying that he will kill you." Umaiiya said, "Will he kill me?" Sa`d said, "Yes,." Umaiya said, "By Allah! When Muhammad says a thing, he never tells a lie."(Sahih Bukhari 56:826)
The only possible reason for later marching on Mecca was to capture the Kaaba and evict the resident non-Muslims (note the Quran says to fight "until religion is for Allah").  Within its true context, the passage is therefore a manifesto for aggressive warfare against the Meccans, and not a case of the Muslims being under real persecution so many miles away.

There is obvious irony in the fact that the 'persecution' spoken of by Muhammad in this verse (to justify slaughter) is exactly what he planned - and did - to his adversaries.  To this day, anyone who is non-Muslim is forbidden to enter the city of Mecca merely on that basis.

Additional Notes:

Chronology according to Muslim historians:
There is absolutely no record of Meccan aggression against the Muslims at Medina in the first three years after their arrival in 622.

Muhammad ordered the first raids against the Meccans a year after the hijra in February of 623, which eventually proved deadly.  There is no record of Quraish aggression during this time.

Word of an impending Muslim attack on a particularly rich caravan, prompted the Meccans to send an army out in defense, where they were goaded into battle and routed by the Muslims at Badr in March of 624.

The Meccans avenged their loss at Badr (and the hostages that were cruelly executed by Muhammad) by routing the Muslims at Uhud, near Medina, in March of 625.  If their ultimate objective had been to kill Muhammad and his followers, then they surely would have invaded the defenseless city and defeated them.  They obviously did not have any interest in doing this.

Muhammad behaved himself with the Meccans for one year, choosing to support himself instead by evicting local Jewish tribes and confiscating their property.  Then he began attacking caravans in April of 626.

After a year of renewed Muslim aggression, the Meccans responded by sending an army to Medina a year later in April of 627, where they failed in a siege that is known as the 'Battle of the Trench.'
As can be seen, the historical record provides absolutely no evidence that the Muslims at Medina were being oppressed or threatened in any way by the Meccans, and fully supports the view that it was the latter who were acting in self-defense.  The Meccans had no interest in Muhammad and simply wanted to live in peace and pursue their commerce.  At each turn, the prophet of Islam unnecessarily harassed them with deadly and provocative actions that eventually forced battles on several occasions.

Further Reading:

These articles are a response to the apologist argument of persecution at Medina and provide a more detailed examination of each claim:

"The Quraish Threatened to Murder Inhabitants of Medina"
"Muhammad Couldn't Sleep Because He Thought the Quraish were Trying to Kill Him"
"A Muslim From Medina was Threatened with Death at Mecca"
"Muhammad Used to Forgive the Quraish in Medina"
"The Quraish Declared War on Muhammad Before the Battle of Badr"
"The Expedition against Kurz Jabir al-Fihri"
"Property of Muslims Stolen"
"Countering 2:191-194 Propaganda"

Myths of Muhammad Index

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