Muslims regularly claim that theirs is a religion of peace. When atrocities happen at the hands of Muslims, they often throw their hands up in the air and say “don’t judge Islam by the acts of Muslims.” They claim that the terrorists don’t know the “true Islam” and are taking the Qur’an out of context. Unfortunately, when the context is elaborated through the holy Islamic texts, example after example appears to illustrate an even less tolerant picture.
Muslims often claim that “the true Jihad is against the nefs or self.” While this is legitimately a secondary definition, if one looks closely at Islamic history and the various text in which the term Jihad is used, it clearly refers to violent bloody battle in the fight against infidels the overwhelming majority of the time. And who are these infidels? Anyone who doesn’t submit to becoming a Muslim or agree to live as a dhimmi falls in that category. In fact, there are 164 verses in the Quran alone about the violent form of Jihad.
Muslims often also claim that according to Islamic history, Muslims only wage war in self –defense and to take back what was already theirs. I was told this repeatedly in mosques in America. This could not be farther from the truth and the historical records.
What I was taught “Mohammed was a Victim”: The Accurate History According to Authentic Qu’ran, Hadith, and Sirah
Muslims portrait Mohamed as a victim of the Meccans, only protecting himself. I believed this for years as I watched the suicide bombs go off on the news and defended Islam with all my strength. (Incidentally, anyone who disagrees with the claim that the countless acts of violence, done by the hands of Muslims, which we see almost every day on the news, are not related to Islam, is often considered “an enemy of Islam.”) What I couldn’t believe was that when I went to original sources, these sources themselves paint a very different picture.
According to Muslim historians, the Meccans were actually quite tolerant of Muhammad preaching his new religion. Mecca was an open society where different religions were respected.
Polytheists, Jews, and Christians lived and worshipped side-by-side, especially during the holy months, when pagan pilgrims would travel long distances from beyond the city to perform their rituals at the Kaaba.
It seems that Muhammad brought on the resentment of the local people by breaking with tradition and cursing other religions. Look at what the original biographer of the Prophet Mohammed said about this point in history:
“When the apostle openly displayed Islam as Allah ordered him, his people did not withdraw or turn against him, so far as I have heard, until he spoke disparagingly of their gods. When he did that, they took great offence and resolved unanimously to treat him as an enemy.”
Although asked to stop, Muhammad continued to stir up trouble by “condemning” the local religion, causing the Meccans great anxiety:
“[The Meccans] said they had never known anything like the trouble they had endured from this fellow. He had declared their mode of life foolish, insulted their forefathers, reviled their religion, divided the community and cursed their gods”.
Muslims always respond, “But they worshiped stones.” So what? It’s not a reason to torture and kill people. I agree, worshiping rocks is silly, but maybe they would have evolved to a higher consciousness in time. Wasn’t there a more loving approach? Muslims also claim that Mohamed was treated very badly, and site numerous examples of this treatment. That may be true, but isn’t a leader judged on how he deals with adversity just as much as how he manages peace? Bad treatment does not justify a green light to all behavior.
Not only was this an insult to the people and their traditions, but it also threatened the local economy, which depended on the annual pilgrimage.
According to Muslim historians, Muhammad briefly agreed to their demand to cease disparaging the local gods and recognize the rights of others to their religion:
When [the Meccans] heard that, they rejoiced. What he had said about their gods pleased and delighted them, and they gave ear to him… When he came to the prostration and finished the chapter, he prostrated and the Muslims followed their prophet in it, having faith in what he brought them and obeying his command. Those mushrikūn of Quraysh and others who were in the mosque also prostrated on account of what they had heard him say about their gods. In the whole mosque there was no believer or kāfir who did not prostrate.
The Meccans were clearly relieved that the unprecedented tension over religious beliefs was broken. They rejoiced by praying alongside the Muslims at the Kaaba. They accepted the Muslims once Muhammad accepted them.
It was only after Muhammad committed himself to armed revolution against the Meccans that the town’s leaders sought to have him either killed or evicted.
Muhammad eventually made an alliance with another town, Medina, that included provisions of war against the Meccans. The parties to the treaty were asked:
“Do you realize to what you are committing yourselves in pledging your support to this man? It is to war against all and everyone”.
The historical account also flatly contradicts the popular view that all Muslims had to flee Mecca following Muhammad’s declaration of war. In fact, it was only Muhammad himself whom the Meccans were interested in seizing. This is proven by the episode recounted by Ibn Ishaq (326-328) in which Muhammad’s own son-in-law, Ali, sleeps in Muhammad’s bed to trick his enemies into thinking that they had cornered him on the night they came to seize him. Not only did the Meccans do no harm to Ali, even after finding out that he had fooled them, he remained in the city for several days thereafter with Mohamed’s daughter in order to arrange the transfer of the family business to Medina.
Most of the Muslims living in Mecca had few assets to begin with, having been drawn largely from the lower rungs of the social ladder, but those who did would have had several years to liquidate their assets or transport them to a new location. As the instigator of the discord, Muhammad was the only Muslim literally forced to flee Mecca in the dead of night, but even his business affairs were sewn up on his behalf by Ali, his son-in-law:
Ali stayed in Mecca for three days and nights until he had restored the deposits which the apostle held.
Muslim biographers provide the names of other Muslims who continued to live in Mecca following Muhammad’s departure and there is no record that they were persecuted. There is even some evidence that the Muslims in Medina were allowed to conduct pilgrimages to Mecca during the holy months (Ibn Ishaq 424).
The following verse was revealed during this time, implying that the Medinan Muslims were still allowed to perform their religious duties.
And complete the Hajj and ‘umrah for Allah . But if you are prevented, then [offer] what can be obtained with ease of sacrificial animals. And do not shave your heads until the sacrificial animal has reached its place of slaughter. And whoever among you is ill or has an ailment of the head [making shaving necessary must offer] a ransom of fasting [three days] or charity or sacrifice. And when you are secure, then whoever performs ‘umrah [during the Hajj months] followed by Hajj [offers] what can be obtained with ease of sacrificial animals. And whoever cannot find [or afford such an animal] – then a fast of three days during Hajj and of seven when you have returned [home]. Those are ten complete [days]. This is for those whose family is not in the area of al-Masjid al-Haram. And fear Allah and know that Allah is severe in penalty.
After his eviction by the Meccans, Muhammad and his Muslims found refuge many miles away in Medina where they were not being bothered by their former adversaries. There is absolutely no record of Meccan aggression against the Muslims at Medina in the first three years after their arrival in 622. “Persecution,” according to Muslims, means that Muslims living 300 miles away in Medina were simply barred from visiting Mecca and thus entering the “sacred mosque” (the Kaaba).Mohamed convinced his people that this (non-lethal) policy was justification for attacking and killing the Meccans in the name of religion.
Despite this, Mohamed sent his men on seven unsuccessful raids against Meccan caravans before finally finding one, whereupon they killed the driver and took the contents for himself and the other Muslims. This particular caravan was especially vulnerable because the attack came during the holy months, when the merchants were least expecting it. Mohammad ignored the very important verse in the Qur’an which stated that fighting could not occur in the holy months:
“So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them.”
He himself broke the rule of the Qur’an to collect war booty.
[A Muslim raider] who had shaved his head, looked down on them [the Meccan caravan], and when they saw him they felt safe and said, “They are pilgrims, you have nothing to fear from them.”
The shaved head caused the Muslims to look like pilgrims rather than raiders, which instilled a false sense of security in the drivers. That seems very deceptive.
[The Muslim raiders] encouraged each other, and decided to kill as many as they could of them and take what they had. Waqid shot Amr bin al-Hadrami with an arrow and killed him…
This was the first deadly preemptive encounter between Meccans and Muslims, but Muslims still say that Islam is against killing for any reason other than self-defense.
Contemporary apologists like to say that Muhammad and his followers were basically robbed by the Meccans on their way out of town. (The 1976 movie, “The Message,” perpetuates this misconception as well. Many Egyptians cite this movie as if it an excellent example of Islamic texts) but it seems to be mythical that the Muslims of that time were simply “taking back” what was theirs. Ibn Ishaq does not mention the contents of the caravan as being Muslim property. In fact, Ishaq explicitly describes the goods as belonging to the Meccans:
A caravan of Quraish carrying dry raisins and leather and other merchandise of Quraish passed by…”
Note also that the cargo plundered from the caravan specifically included raisins, which would have long since perished had they been from grapes grown and dried by the Muslim before they left Mecca nearly a full year earlier. A fifth of the loot was also given to Muhammad as war booty, specified by the Qur’an which would not have been the case if it rightfully belonged to another Muslim (Ibn Ishaq 425).
So, if the Muslims at Medina weren’t trying to recover stolen goods, why then were they plundering Meccan caravans?Muhammad provides the real reason for the looting and the killing:
“If you have killed in the sacred month, they have kept you back from the way of Allah with their unbelief in Him, and from the sacred mosque, and have driven you from it when you were its people. This is a more serious matter with Allah then the killing of those of them whom you have slain. ‘And seduction is worse than killing.’ They used to seduce the Muslim in his religion until they made him return to unbelief after believing, and that is worse with Allah than killing.”
Thus, the justification for killing the Meccans and stealing their goods is purely religious i.e. you should kill them and plunder their goods because members of their tribe had convinced some people to give up Islam. The only thing stolen from the Muslims was the ability to enter the sacred mosque (ie. complete the Haj ritual at the Kaaba). The innocent caravan drivers were therefore fair game for Muhammad’s deadly raids simply because Muslims felt “kept back from the way of Allah” by the “unbelief” of the Meccan leadership.
This is all the more apparent by the next major episode in which Muhammad sent his men to plunder caravans, which precipitated the Battle of Badr:
When the Apostle heard about Abu Sufyan coming from Syria, he summoned the Muslims and said, “This is the Quraish caravan containing their property. Go out to attack it, perhaps Allah will give it as a prey.”
In this case the Meccans were returning to Mecca from a business trip to Syria. Any goods they were carrying would have been purchased from the Syrians.
Further Violence – Not Self-Defense
Over the next nine years, the principle source of income for Muslims was wealth forcibly extracted from others. The targets of misfortune expanded well beyond the Meccans. By the time Muhammad died, his men were finding excuse to raid and take from many other tribes. Muhammad organized 65 military campaigns in the last ten years of his life and personally led 27 of them. To me, that is just way too much violence for anyone. But again, we are not talking about the history of Genghis Khan or Alexander the Great. Those men were military leaders whose sole objective was power. We can criticize them freely and analyze them historically without fear. However, Mohammad is supposed to be a spiritual leader. We are not allowed to criticize him and say anything he did was bad. We can only discuss his warrior past if it is being glorified. If we do otherwise; we risk death.
Far from being mere history or theological construct, the violent verses of the Qur’an have played a key role in actual massacre and genocide. This includes the brutal slaughter of tens of millions of Hindus for five centuries beginning around 1000 AD with Mahmud of Ghazni’s bloody conquest, including the massacre of those who were defending their temples from destruction. Buddhism was very nearly wiped off the Indian subcontinent. Judaism and Christianity met the same fate in areas conquered by Muslim armies, including the Middle East, North Africa and parts of Europe, including today’s Turkey. Zoroastrianism, the ancient religion of a proud Persian people is despised by Muslims and barely survives in modern Iran. No other religion was spread in such a way and no other religion gives its zealot followers so much justification to kill as long as they are spreading their religion.
Khalid ibn al-Walid (d. 642), a bloodthirsty but superior commander of the Muslim armies who led many Muslim armies to victory after Mohammad’s death, summarizes the call to jihad well:
‘I call you to God and to Islam. If you respond to the call, you are Muslims: You obtain the benefits they enjoy and take up the responsibilities they bear. If you refuse, then [you must pay] the jizyah. If you refuse the jizyah, I will bring against you tribes of people who are more eager for death than you are for life. We will fight you until God decides between us and you.’
Volume IV Book XII. The Mohammedan Ascendency, page 463, by John Clark Ridpath, LL.D. 1910
It just doesn’t sound very nice to me. Why didn’t Jesus or Buddha ever talk this way?
Here is a summary of the major events through out Mohammad’s life. I never got it so clearly from Muslims, but the timeline approach helps one to put things into perspective. It just seems like the timeline of a military leader, not a spiritual leader.
Timeline of Muhammad’s Life (A.D)
570 – Born in Mecca
576 – Orphaned upon death of mother
595 – Marries Khadija – older, wealthy widow
610 – Reports first revelations from angel at age of 40
619 – Protector uncle dies
622 – Emigrates from Mecca to Medina (the Hijra)
623 – Orders raids on Meccan caravans
624 – Battle of Badr (victory)
624 – Evicts Qaynuqa Jews from Medina
624 – Orders the assassination of Abu Afak
624 – Orders the assassination of Asma bint Marwan
624 – Orders the assassination of Ka’b al-Ashraf
625 – Battle of Uhud (defeat)
625 – Evicts Nadir Jews
627 – Battle of the Trench (victory)
627 – Massacre of the Qurayza Jews
628 – Signing of the Treaty of Hudaibiya with Mecca
628 – Destruction and subjugation of the Khaybar Jews
629 – Orders first raid into Christian lands at Muta (defeat)
630 – Conquers Mecca by surprise (along with other tribes)
631 – Leads second raid into Christian territory at Tabuk (no battle, they gave up)
632 – Dies
The following correspondence summarizes it all for me. In is a letter, similar to many others that were written, by Mohammad to the King of Oman and his brother Abd Al-Jalandi. The original letter is still available and a copy can be found in Arabic on the Internet. He writes:
“In the name of Allah, the Most Beneficent, the Most Merciful, From Mohammad bin Abdulla to Jaifer and Abd Al- Jalandi: “Peace be upon him who follows true guidance; therefore I invite both of you to the Call of Islam. Embrace Islam. Allah has sent me as a Prophet to all His creatures in order that I may instill fear of Allah in the hearts of His disobedient creatures so that there may be left no excuse for those who deny Allah. If you two accept Islam, you will remain in command of your country; but if you refuse my Call, you’ve got to remember that all of your possessions are perishable. My horsemen will appropriate your land, and my Prophethood will assume preponderance over your kingship.”
Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum, Translated by Issam Diab
To me this clearly says, if you don’t follow my religion, I will wipe you out. Muslims often say that there is no obligation in religion and that the Qur’an states that. True, but as mentioned before, that was stated in Mecca when the Muslims had a population of less than a hundred. It also does not offer the whole picture. As soon as they got strong in Medina, the sentiment became clearly one of domination. Read the letter again. Does it sound tolerant to you?
I would have never become a Muslim if I had known that early Muslims attacked the unarmed preemptively and that this is used as a justification to attack others in the same manner. Basically, other converts and I were lied to. We defended Islam when acts of terrorism took place, claiming this had nothing to do with Islamic texts. We, like many others living in the Muslim world, were giving books to read that ignored history. Sadly, the terrorists and Wahabis know these verses very well and are educated about the way in which Mohamed sanctified preemptive attacks as long as the goal was to expand the Muslim Ummah.
The following are just a few of the verses in the Koran and the Hadith which incite violence:
“Fight them, Allah will punish them by your hands and bring them to disgrace…”
“Those who believe, and have left their homes and striven with their wealth and their lives in Allah’s way are of much greater worth in Allah’s sight. These are they who are triumphant.”
The “striving” spoken of here is Jihad.
“Fight those who believe not in Allah nor the Last Day, nor hold that forbidden which hath been forbidden by Allah and His Messenger, nor acknowledge the religion of Truth, (even if they are) of the People of the Book, until they pay the Jizya with willing submission, and feel themselves subdued.”
“People of the Book” refers to Christians and Jews. This was one of the final revelations from Allah and it set in motion the military expansion, in which Muhammad’s companions managed to conquer two-thirds of the Christian world in just the next 100 years. Islam is intended to dominate all other people and faiths.
“And the Jews say: Ezra is the son of Allah; and the Christians say: The Messiah is the son of Allah; these are the words of their mouths; they imitate the saying of those who disbelieved before; may Allah destroy them; how they are turned away!”
“O ye who believe! what is the matter with you, that, when ye are asked to go forth in the cause of Allah, ye cling heavily to the earth? Do ye prefer the life of this world to the Hereafter? But little is the comfort of this life, as compared with the Hereafter. Unless ye go forth, He will punish you with a grievous penalty, and put others in your place.”
This is a warning to those who refuse to fight, that they will be punished with Hell.
“Go forth, light-armed and heavy-armed, and strive with your wealth and your lives in the way of Allah! That is best for you if ye but knew.”
See also the verse that follows:
“If there had been immediate gain (in sight), and the journey easy, they would (all) without doubt have followed thee, but the distance was long, (and weighed) on them”
This contradicts the myth that Muslims are to fight only in self-defense, since the wording implies that battle will be waged a long distance from home (in another country and on Christian soil, in this case, according to the historians).
“O Prophet! strive hard against the unbelievers and the hypocrites and be unyielding to them; and their abode is hell, and evil is the destination.”
Dehumanizing those who reject Islam, by reminding Muslims that they are merely firewood for Hell, makes it easier to justify slaughter. It also explains why today’s devout Muslims have little regard for those outside the faith.
“But the Messenger, and those who believe with him, strive and fight with their wealth and their persons: for them are (all) good things: and it is they who will prosper.”
“Allah hath purchased of the believers their persons and their goods; for theirs (in return) is the garden (of Paradise): they fight in His cause, and slay and are slain: a promise binding on Him in truth, through the Law, the Gospel, and the Qur’an: and who is more faithful to his covenant than Allah? then rejoice in the bargain which ye have concluded: that is the achievement supreme.”
“O you who believe! Fight those of the unbelievers who are near to you and let them find in you hardness.”
“We gave the good things of this life to these men and their fathers until the period grew long for them; See they not that We gradually reduce the land (in their control) from its outlying borders? Is it then they who will win?”
“Therefore listen not to the Unbelievers, but strive against them with the utmost strenuousness, with the (Qur’an).”
“Strive against” is Jihad – obviously not in the personal context. It’s also significant to point out that this is a Meccan verse.
“So when you meet in battle those who disbelieve, then smite the necks until when you have overcome them, then make (them) prisoner.,”
“Be not weary and faint-hearted, crying for peace, when ye should be uppermost (Shakir: “have the upper hand”) for Allah is with you,”
“There is no blame for the blind, nor is there blame for the lame, nor is there blame for the sick (that they go not forth to war). And whoso obeyeth Allah and His messenger, He will make him enter Gardens underneath which rivers flow; and whoso turneth back, him will He punish with a painful doom.”
Contemporary apologists sometimes claim that Jihad means ‘spiritual struggle.’ If so, then why are the blind, lame and sick exempted?
“Muhammad is the messenger of Allah. And those with him are hard (ruthless) against the disbelievers and merciful among themselves”
Islam is not about treating everyone equally. There are two very distinct standards that are applied based on religious status.
“Surely Allah loves those who fight in His way.”
How does this exemplify what is considered the religion of peace?
“O ye who believe! Shall I lead you to a bargain that will save you from a grievous Penalty?- That ye believe in Allah and His Messenger, and that ye strive (your utmost) in the Cause of Allah, with your property and your persons: That will be best for you, if ye but knew! He will forgive you your sins, and admit you to Gardens beneath which Rivers flow, and to beautiful mansions in Gardens of Eternity.”
This verse was given in battle. It uses the Arabic word, Jihad.
“O Prophet! Strive against the disbelievers and the hypocrites, and be stern with them. Hell will be their home, a hapless journey’s end.”
The root word of “Jihad” is used again here. The context is clearly holy war, and the scope of violence is broadened to include “hypocrites” – those who call themselves Muslims but do not act as such.
From the Hadith:
[Allah’s Messenger said] The last hour would not come unless the Muslims will fight against the Jews and the Muslims would kill them until the Jews would hide themselves behind a stone or a tree and a stone or a tree would say: Muslim, or the servant of Allah, there is a Jew behind me; come and kill him;
The Prophet… was asked whether it was permissible to attack the pagan warriors at night with the probability of exposing their women and children to danger. The Prophet replied, “They (i.e. women and children) are from them (i.e. pagans).”
In this command, Muhammad establishes that it is permissible to kill non-combatants (women and children) in the process of killing a perceived enemy. This provides justification for the many Islamic terror bombings.
Allah’s Apostle said… ‘I have been made victorious with terror’.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said: Three things are the roots of faith: to refrain from (killing) a person who utters, “There is no god but Allah” and not to declare him unbeliever whatever sin he commits, and not to excommunicate him from Islam for his any action; and jihad will be performed continuously since the day Allah sent me as a prophet until the day the last member of my community will fight with the Dajjal (Antichrist).
The Prophet said: Striving in the path of Allah (jihad) is incumbent on you along with every ruler, whether he is pious or impious.
The Messenger of Allah said: I have been commanded to fight against people till they testify that there is no god but Allah, that Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.
Allah’s Apostle said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah.
“Abu Dharr reported: I said: Messenger of Allah, which of the deeds is the best? He (the Holy Prophet) replied: Belief in Allah and Jihad in His cause…”
“…He (the Messenger of Allah) did that and said: There is another act which elevates the position of a man in Paradise to a grade one hundred (higher), and the elevation between one grade and the other is equal to the height of the heaven from the earth. He (Abu Sa’id) said: What is that act? He replied: Jihad in the way of Allah! Jihad in the way of Allah!”
“the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said: ‘One who died but did not fight in the way of Allah nor did he express any desire (or determination) for Jihid died the death of a hypocrite.'”
The morning after the murder of Ashraf, the Prophet declared, “Kill any Jew who falls under your power.”
Ashraf was a poet, killed by Muhammad’s men because he insulted Islam. Here, Muhammad widens the scope of his orders to kill. An innocent Jewish businessman was then slain by his Muslim partner, merely for being non-Muslim.
“Killing Unbelievers is a small matter to us.”
These are Muhammad’s exact words.
“Allah said, ‘A prophet must slaughter before collecting captives. A slaughtered enemy is driven from the land. Muhammad, you craved the desires of this world, its goods and the ransom captives would bring. But Allah desires killing them to manifest the religion.’”
“Fight everyone in the way of Allah and kill those who disbelieve in Allah.”
Muhammad’s instructions to his men prior to a military raid.