AN EXAMINATION OF CERTAIN PARTS OF MUHAMMAD'S CONDUCT, AS REFERRED TO IN THE QUR'AN AND DESCRIBED BY MUSLIM HISTORIANS AND COMMENTATORS, IN ORDER TO ASCERTAIN TO WHAT DEGREE HIS CLAIM TO THE PROPHETIC OFFICE IS THEREBY SUBSTANTIATED
WE must now turn to the consideration of some of Muhammad's actions and certain details of his conduct, in order to see whether these were such as to confirm his claim to have been sent by God as a Prophet and an Apostle. Regarding these matters it is right and fitting that we should speak with the greatest courtesy and regard for the feelings of our Muslim readers. Hence we shall not quote the statements of Greek and other Christian writers, but only those of Muslim authors of repute. Nor shall we venture to express any judgement of our own upon the subject, remembering the saying of St. Paul: “Who 1 art thou that judgest the servant of another? to his own lord he standeth or falleth.” We are all servants of God, and He alone is the Judge of all men. But it is inevitable that each of us should have his opinion upon this subject, even though he may not be called upon to express it. In order that our honoured readers may know the facts of the case, and so be able to judge for themselves whether Muhammad was or was not what Muslims believe him to have been, we proceed to lay before them a few quotations from the Qur'an itself, together with the explanations of them given by some of the leading Muslim commentators, lest there should be any uncertainty about their meaning. In addition to these we shall adduce certain statements made by leading Muslim biographers of Muhammad and historians, together with commonly accepted Traditions, in order that it may be clear how he acted after he had gained power through his alliance with the tribes of Aus and Khazraj at Medinah and their conversion to Islam. We must entreat our readers to remember that we are not expressing our own opinions, but merely quoting what Muslim authorities state on these points.
The matters which we have selected for investigation are: (1) Muhammad's matrimonial affairs, and (2) his way of dealing with his enemies. The learned reader will notice that we might easily have selected extracts from Muslim writers which deal much more fully with each point than those do to whom we appeal. But we wished to choose reliable authorities, and to avoid all who to any extent seem to have employed exaggeration in their statements or to have indulged their imagination. Such writers as those of the latter class, unaware how their statements would be regarded by impartial readers, have perhaps said things about Muhammad which represent his character in too unfavourable a light. We have therefore avoided them, and confined ourselves mostly to earlier and more reliable accounts given by Arabic authors. Occasional reference, however, is made to Persian and Turkish works, that it may be evident that the whole Muhammadan world is agreed regarding the facts which we are considering.
I. With regard to matrimonial affairs: in Surah 4:3 the rule is laid down that each Muslim may have one or two or three or four wives at a time, “or what your right hands possess.” Al Baizawi explains the latter phrase as meaning concubines or slave-girls (سراري). This verse sanctions polygamy and servile concubinage among Muslims for all time, rendering permanent the many evils thereby caused, of which Muslim lands are full. But Muhammad was not limited in his polygamy 2 by even such wide limits as those fixed in this passage, for in Surah 33:49, 5o, a special privilege is given to Muhammad in these words: “O Prophet, verily We have made lawful to thee thy wives, whose morning-gifts thou hast brought, and what thy right hand possesses of that which God hath bestowed upon thee, and the daughters of thy paternal uncle, and the daughters of thy paternal aunts, and the daughters of thy maternal uncle and the daughters of thy maternal aunts who have emigrated with thee, and [any] believing woman, if she give herself to the Prophet, if the Prophet desire to ask her in marriage,—a privilege to thee beyond [the rest of ] the Believers (We know what We have enjoined 3 upon them concerning their wives and what their right hand possess); lest there should be a crime upon thee.” In his commentary upon this passage, Al Baizawi says 4 : “'A privilege,' &c.—A notification that it is part of what is granted specially to him in honour of his being a prophet, and an acknowledgement that He deems him worthy of generosity on his account.” Among other explanations of the word rendered “a privilege”, Baizawi gives “true friendship” and “a special gift”. That we may understand to what extent Muhammad availed himself of this “special privilege”, it should be observed that, at the time of his death, he had nine wives still living, besides at least two concubines, Mary and Rihanah. Ibn Hisham informs us that in all Muhammad married thirteen wives. 'Ayishah was six or seven years of age when the wedding ceremony was performed, and cohabitation began when she was still playing with her dolls at the age of nine or ten years. 5
With regard to Mary the Copt, sent to Muhammad by the then governor of Egypt, it is said in Surah 66:1, 2: “O Prophet, why deemest thou unlawful what God hath made lawful to thee? Thou seekest the approval of thy wives; and God is Forgiving, Gracious. God hath announced to you the annulment of your oaths, and God is your Master, and He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.”Al Baizawi gives two different explanations of this passage, but the one which is confirmed by other commentators is this: “It 6 is related that Muhammad was alone in company with Mary in 'Ayishah's or Hafsah's turn. Hafsah became aware of that, and therefore scolded him about it. He declared Mary unlawful. Therefore (these verses) descended.” The whole story, which is not an edifying one, is told at length in the Rauzatu's Safa 7 and elsewhere. We have chosen a short and simple form of it, so as to avoid details unfit for these pages. But the light which the whole incident throws upon Muhammad's character is noteworthy. It is also worthy of notice as strange that a Revelation from the Holy One should sanction the breach of oaths and such conduct as is mentioned by the commentators.
In reference to Muhammad's marriage with Zainab, daughter of Jahsh, and wife of his own adopted son Zaid ibn Harithah, we read in Surah 33:37, 38: “And (remember) when thou saidst to him on whom God had conferred favours and on whom thou hadst conferred favours, 'Keep thy wife to thyself, and reverence God,' and thou dost conceal within thyself what God manifests, and thou fearest men, and God is more deserving that thou shouldst fear Him. Accordingly, when Zaid had satisfied a requirement from her, We wedded her to thee, lest there should be upon the Believers a crime in (taking) the wives of their adopted sons, when they have satisfied a requirement from them: and God's command was performed. There was no crime for the Prophet in what God enjoined unto him, as God's rule in the case of those who were previously 8 free: and God's command is a fixed decree.”
In speaking of the Zainab here referred to, the two Jalals say 9 : “The Prophet wedded her to Zaid; then his glance fell on her after a time, and there fell into his soul love of her, and into the soul of Zaid abhorrence of her. He said to the Prophet, 'I wish to be separated from her.' Therefore said he, 'Keep thy wife to thyself,' as God Most High said ...Then Zaid divorced her, and her time was fulfilled.” On the words, “And We wedded her to thee,” they say: “Accordingly the Prophet went in unto her without permission, and he sated the Muslims with bread and meat.”
Al Baizawi says 10 : “'Keep thy wife to thyself,' i. e. Zainab: and that because Muhammad beheld her after he had wedded her to him (Zaid), and she fell into his soul: therefore he said, 'Praise to God who turneth hearts upside down.' And Zainab heard the ascription of praise, and mentioned it to Zaid. He was quick to understand that, and there occurred to his soul an aversion from her society. Therefore he came to the Prophet and said, 'I desire to put away my consort.' (Muhammad) said, 'What is the matter with thee? Has anything made thee doubtful of her?' (Zaid) said, 'No, by God, I have seen nothing (done) by her but what is good; but truly her dignity is too exalted for me.' Accordingly he said to him, 'Keep thy wife to thyself' .... 'Therefore when Zaid satisfied a requirement from her,' i.e. a need; since he wearied of her, and he divorced her, and her time was completed. . . 'We wedded her to thee': ... the meaning is that He commanded him to wed her, or He made her his (Muhammad's) wife without the interposition of a marriage-contract. And what confirms it (this explanation) is that she used to say to the rest of the Prophet's wives, 'Verily God acted the part of a relative in my being given in marriage, and, as for you, your relatives gave you in marriage.' And it is said that Zaid was the go-between in her betrothal, and that was a great trial, and an evident witness to the strength of his faith.” From these last few words it is clear that Baizawi recognized to the full that such conduct on Muhammad's part naturally made not a few people doubtful of the truth of his claims.
The history of Muhammad's relations with Safiyyah, Rihanah, and some others of his wives and concubines is given in Ibn Hisham's Stratu'r Rasul, in Ibn Athir's History, in the Rauzatu's Safa, the Rauzatu'l Ahbab, and in other works written by Muslims themselves. 11 It is not pleasant reading, nor is it very edifying or profitable, except as casting light upon Muhammad's moral character. But we content ourselves with what has been already said regarding this matter.
II. We now turn to the consideration of his manner of dealing with his enemies. Here again we mention only a few incidents out of many.
Ibn Hisham tells us how the Jewish tribe, the Banu Quraizah, surrendered themselves prisoners to Muhammad, and that the latter left the decision as to their fate in the hands of their wounded enemy, Sa'd ibn Mu'adh. Then the historian continues the tale as follows: “Sa'd 12 said, 'Then regarding them I adjudge that thou slay the men and divide the goods and enslave the children and the women.' Ibn Ishaq says, . . . The Prophet of God said to Sa'd, 'Thou hast judged concerning them with the judgement of God from above the seven heavens.' . . . Accordingly the Apostle of God imprisoned them in Medinah, in the house of the daughter of Harith, a woman of the Banu'n Najjar. Then the Apostle of God went out to the market-place of Medinah, which is its market-place today, and caused to be dug in it trenches. Then he sent for them and beheaded them in those trenches. They were brought forth unto him as sent for, and among them the enemy of God, Hayy bin Akhtab, and Ka'b ibn Asad, the chief of the tribe: and there were 600 or 700 of them. And he who estimates their number highest says that they were between 800 and 900. And while Ka'b ibn Asad was going with them to the Apostle of God, they said to him, 'O Ka'b what dost thou think that he will do with us?' He said ... 'Do ye not understand? Do ye not see the person who calls does not desist, and that whoso of you goes with him does not return? By God, it is a massacre.' And that state of affairs did not come to an end until the Apostle of God had finished with them. Hayy bin Akhtab, the enemy of God, was brought, and on him was a flower-coloured cloak of his ... When he saw the Apostle of God, he said, 'Indeed, by God, I have not reproached myself for hostility to thee; but whomsoever God forsaketh He forsaketh.' Then he came to the men and said, 'Men, verily there is no harm in God's command, a writing and a fate and a massacre which God has written concerning the Children of Israel.' Then he sat down and was beheaded ... 'Ayishah says: 'None of their women were slain, except one woman ... She was with me, talking with me, and laughing outwardly and inwardly while the Apostle of God was killing her men in the market-place, when a crier cried out her name: Where is such and such a woman? She said, It is I, by God. I said to her, Alas for thee, what is the matter with thee? She said, I shall be killed. I said, And why? She said, For the talk which I talk. Then she was taken off and beheaded.' 'Ayishah used to say, 'By God, I do not forget my surprise at her, the goodliness of her person and the abundance of her laughter, while she knew that she would be killed.' It was she who had cast the hand-mill upon Khalad ibn Suwaid .... Ibn Ishaq says: The Apostle of God had commanded the slaughter of the men who had reached the age of puberty ... Then verily the Apostle of God divided the goods of the Banau Quraizah and their wives and their children among the Muslims ... Then the Apostle of God sent Sa'd bin Zaid the Ansari, brother of the Banu 'Abdi'l Ashhal, with some of the captives of the Banu Quraizah to Najad, and there he bought with them horses and arms. And the Apostle of God chose for himself of their women Rihanah, daughter of 'Amr bin Khanafah ... and she was with the Apostle of God until he died from her, and she was among his concubines. The Apostle of God had proposed to her that he should marry her and cast the veil over her. She said, 'O Apostle of God, on the contrary, leave me among thy slaves, for it is easier for me and for thee.”
After the battle of Badr when the Muslims had cast the bodies of their enemies who had fallen in that engagement into an old 13 well, while they were on their way back to Medinah with their prisoners, some of the latter were put to death. Ibn Ishaq's account of the matter runs 14 thus: “When the Apostle of God was at As Sufra, An Nazr ibnu'l Harith was executed, 'Ali ibn Abi Talib executed him, as some of the learned Meccans have informed me ... Then (Muhammad) went forward till, when he was at 'Arqu'z Zabiyyah, 'Uqbah bin Abi Mu'ait was executed ... When the Apostle of God ordered his execution, 'Uqbah said, 'Who then (will be a guardian) to my little girl, O Muhammad?' He said, 'Hell-fire.'”
The story of the murder of Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf is thus related in Ibn Hisham's Siratu’r Rasul 15 : “Then Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf returned to Medinah and praised the beauty of the Muslims' wives until he annoyed them. Accordingly the Apostle of God said, ... 'Who is for me in the matter of Ibnu'l Ashraf?' Muhammad ibn Maslamah, brother of the Banu 'Abdi'l Ashhal, said to him, 'I am for thee in his affair, O Apostle of God: I shall kill him.' He said, 'Then do so, if you are able for it'. Accordingly Muhammad ibn Maslamah returned and waited three days, neither eating nor drinking except what his life depended on. He mentioned this to the Apostle of God? Then the latter prayed, and said to him, 'Why hast thou given up food and drink?' He said, 'O Apostle of God, I spoke to thee a word, and I know not whether I shall accomplish it for thee or not.' (Muhammad) said, 'Verily the attempt is incumbent on thee' ... For his killing there gathered together Muhammad ibn Maslamah and Salkan ibn Salamah ibn Waqsh, and he is Abu Na'ilah, one of the sons of 'Abdu'l Ashhal, and he was foster-brother of Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf, and 'Abbad ibn Bashr ibn Waqsh, one of the sons of 'Abdu'l Ashhal, and Harith ibn Aus ibn Mu'adh, one of the sons of 'Abdu'l Ashhal, and Abu 'Abs ibn Jabar, one of the sons of Harithah. Before coming to him, they sent Salkan ibn Salamah Abu Na'ilah to the enemy of God, Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf. He came and conversed with him for a time, and they recited poetry to one another, and Abu Na'ilah kept quoting the poetry. 16 Then he said, 'Well done, Ibnu'l Ashraf! Verily I have come to thee by reason of a need which I wish to mention to thee: keep it secret for me.' He said, 'I shall do so.' (Abu Na'ilah) said, 'The coming of this man 17 has been a calamity to us. Through him have the Arabs ... blocked the roads against us, so that our families have perished and our souls are emaciated, and we have grown thin and our families have grown thin.' Ka'b said, 'As sure as I am Ibnu'l Ashraf, used I not, by God, to assure thee, O Ibn Salamah, that the matter would turn out just as I said?' Salkan said to him, 'I desire that thou shouldest sell us food, and we shall give thee a pledge and make an agreement with thee, and thou wilt be doing good in that matter.' He said, 'Will you pawn me your children?' (Abu Na'ilah) said, 'Thou desirest to insult us. Verily there are with me comrades of the same opinion as myself, and I wish to bring them to thee: then thou wilt sell to them, and in that thou wilt be doing a good action; and we shall pawn to thee of our arms that in which there is security.' Salkan wished that (Ibnu'l Ashraf) should not refuse the arms when they brought them. He said, 'Verily there is truly security in arms.' Salkan returned to his comrades and told them his news, and bade them bring the arms, and to go away and assemble to him again. Accordingly they gathered together at the house of the Apostle of God ... The Apostle of God walked with them to the Field of the Thorntree. Then he sent them off and said, 'Depart in God's name. O God, aid them!' Then the Apostle of God returned home. And it was on a moonlit night. They advanced till they reached his (Ibnu'l Ashraf's) stronghold. Abu Na'ilah called out for him. He was newly married. He leaped up in his wrapper. His wife caught hold of its skirt and said, 'Verily thou art a warrior, and warriors do not go down at this hour.' He said 'Verily it is Abu Na'ilah: if he found me asleep he would not waken me.' She said, 'By God, verily in his voice I surely recognize evil.' Ka'b said to her, 'If the lad calls me for a lance-thrust, I shall surely answer, Yes.' He went down and conversed with them for a time, and they talked with him. Then (Abu Na'ilah) said 'Art thou, Ibnu'l Ashraf inclined for us to walk together to the Old Woman's Pass, and there spend the rest of this night of ours in conversation?' (Ibriu'l Ashraf) said, ' If you please.' They went out walking together therefore. They walked along for a time Then verily Abu Na'ilah thrust his hand amid the locks of hair on his (Ibnu'l Ashraf's) head. Then he smelt his hand and said, 'I never saw it scented and perfumed as it is tonight.' Then he walked along for a time. Then he again acted in the same manner, until Ka'b was lulled into confidence. Then he walked along for a time, then he repeated the same conduct. He seized the locks of hair on his (Ibnu'l Ashraf's) head, then he said, 'Smite the enemy of God.' Accordingly they smote him. Their swords came in collision with one another about him and effected nothing. Muhammad ibn Maslamah said, 'Then I recalled to mind my long sword blade, when I saw that our swords effected nothing. I seized it. The enemy of God cried out with such a cry that around us there remained not a stronghold on which a fire was not kindled. Then I stuck it into his abdomen, then I pressed upon it till it reached his navel, and the enemy of God fell: And Harith ibn Aus ibn Mu'adh had been struck and was wounded in his head or in his foot: one of our swords had struck him. We went away until we passed the Banu Umayyah ibn Zaid, then the Banu Quraizah, then Bu'ath, until we approached Harratu'l 'Ariz. And our comrade Al Harith ibn Aus had delayed us, and loss of blood had exhausted him. For a time we halted on his account: then there came upon us one who was following up our traces. Therefore we carried him (Al Harith) and brought him to the Apostle of God at the conclusion of the night. He was standing praying. We saluted him, and he came out to us: We informed him of the killing of the enemy of God. He spat upon our comrade's wound, and went back. And we returned to our people.'”
The story of Muhaisah and Huwaisah tells us at whose instigation another murder was committed, and shows us also how some conversions to Islam were brought about at Medinah. Ibn Ishaq is quoted by Ibn 18 Hisham as saying: “The Apostle of God said, Whomsoever among the men of the Jews you overcome, kill him.' Accordingly Muhaisah 19 ibn Mas'ud attacked and killed one of the Jewish merchants, a man who used to deal and do business with them, Ibn Subainah . 20 And Huwaisah ibn Mas'ud had not yet, when that occurred, become a Muslim. He was older than Muhaisah. When (Muhaisah) had killed him (Ibn Subainah), Huwaisah began to beat him and to say, O enemy of God, hast thou slain him? Certainly, by God, it was to increase the fat in thy belly by means of his property.' Muhaisah [in telling the story] said, 'I said, By God, if he who commanded me to kill him bade me kill thee, I should surely behead thee.' He said, By God, it was indeed the beginning of Huwaisah's conversion to Islam. He said, 'God! If Muhammad bade thee kill me, wouldest thou really kill me?' (Muhaisah) said 'Yes, by God: had he commanded me to cut off thine head, I should have done it.' (Huwaisah) said, ' By God, this religion has verily attained to something wonderful in thy case.' Accordingly Huwaisah became a Muslim. Ibn Ishaq says: ' A client of the Banu Harithah told me this tradition on the authority of Muhaisah's daughter (who had heard the story) from her father Muhaisah.'”
A slightly different account of Huwaisah's conversion to Islam is given by Ibn Hisham himself 21 from another source. But it varies very little from this, and represents (as this account does) his conversion as due to terror at another murder committed by Muhaisah, also by Muhammad's command.
Ibn Ishaq’s 22 account of the murder of Salam ibn Abil Huqaiq is another instance of the kind of deed which Muhammad sanctioned. He tells us that there was rivalry between the two tribes of the Ansars, Aus and Khazraj, each being resolved that the other should not excel it in zeal for Islam and Muhammad. Accordingly, he says, “When the Aus had destroyed Ka'b ibnu'l Ashraf in his enmity towards the Apostle of God, the Khazraj said, 'By God, they shall never excel us in this: Accordingly they consulted one another as to what man was in hostility to the Apostle of God, like Ibnu'l Ashraf: and they remembered Ibn Abi'l Huqaiq, and he was at Khaibar. Therefore they asked permission of the Apostle of God to slay him, and he gave them leave. Accordingly five men of the Khazraj, of the Banu Salmah, five persons, set out unto him, 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Utaik and Mas'ud ibn Sana and 'Abdu'llah ibn Unais and Abu Qatadatu'l Harith ibn Rab'i and Khaza'i ibn Aswad, one of their confederates, who had embraced Islam. Accordingly they set out. And the Apostle of God placed in command of them 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Utaik, and forbade them to kill a child or a woman. They went forward until they came to Khaibar. They came during the night to the village of Ibn Abi'l Huqaiq. They did not visit a house in the village without fastening it upon its inmates. And (Ibn Abi'l Huqaiq) was in an upper room of his, to which there was a staircase. Accordingly they ascended by it until they stood at his door. They asked permission to come in to him. His wife came out to them. She said, 'Who are you?' They said, 'Men of the Arabs: we are' seeking for corn.' She said, 'There is your friend, go in to him.' When they went in to him, we locked the room upon ourselves and upon her, 23 through fear lest, if there should be a combat over him, she should intervene between us and him. Therefore his wife cried out and screamed at us. We came unexpectedly upon him with our swords: (he was in his bed) : and, by God, in the blackness of the night nothing directed us to him except his pallor, [which looked] as if he had been Egyptian linen stretched out. And when his wife cried out at us, the man 24 among us began to raise his sword against her. Then he remembered the prohibition of the Prophet of God. Therefore his hand dropped. If that had not been so, surely we had been quit of her in the night. Accordingly, when we struck him with our swords, 'Abdu'llah ibn Unais pressed upon him with his sword in his belly till he pierced him through ... And we went out. And 'Abdu'llah ibn 'Utaik was a man of bad sight, and he fell from the staircase, and his hands 25 was sprained severely: and in what Ibn Hisham says it is said his foot. And we carried him till we came to an aqueduct of their springs, and into it we enter. And they lit fires and ran in every direction seeking for us, until, when they lost hope, they returned to their friend. And they encircled him while he died among them . . . . We carried our comrade and came to the Apostle of God and informed him of the killing of the enemy of God. And in his presence we differed among ourselves about his killing, each of us laying claim to it. Therefore the Apostle of God said, 'Bring your swords' We brought them to him. He looked at them and said, 'Truly the sword of this 'Abdu'llah ibn Unais has killed him: on it I see the trace of food'.”
In this narrative we read that Muhammad forbade that any woman should be murdered on that particular occasion. But that this was not always the case is clear 26 from the story of 'Asma's fate (عصماء). Of her murder and of that of a very old man the following account is given by Ibn Ishaq. Abu 'Afak, a man of about 100 years of age, had written some verses against Muhammad. “Accordingly,” says 27 Ibn Ishaq, “the Apostle of God said, 'Who is for me in the matter of this vile fellow?' Therefore Salim ibn 'Umair, brother of the Banu 'Amr bin 'Auf, who was one of the Weepers, went forth and slew him.”
'Asma', daughter of Marwan, was a poetess who also attacked Muhammad in her verses. Of her fate Ibn Ishaq 28 writes thus: “When Abu 'Afak. was slain, she pretended [to embrace Islam]. She was under [i.e. married to] a man of the Banu Khatamah who was called Yazid bin Zaid . . . . The Apostle of God said, 'Shall I not exact satisfaction for myself from, the daughter of Marwan?' 'Umair ibn 'Udai the Khatami heard that from the speech of the Apostle of God, being near him. Accordingly, when that night drew on, he went by night against her in her house and killed her. Then in the morning he was with the Apostle of God, and said to him, 'O Apostle of God, verily I have killed her.' Then (Muhammad) said, 'Thou hast helped God and His Apostle, O 'Umair.' (Umair) said, 'Will there be any [danger] to me on her account, O Apostle of God?' He said, ' Two goats will not butt one another about her.' Accordingly 'Umair returned to his people. On that day the Banu Khatamah were much disturbed about the daughter of Marwan. On that day she had as sons five men. When 'Umair bin 'Udai came to them from the Apostle of God, he said, 'O Banu Khatamah, it was I who slew the daughter of Marwan: do you then all together avenge yourselves on me.' . . . On that day for the first time was Islam honoured in the abodes of the Banu Khatamah: for whoever among them had [up to that time] become a Muslim used to conceal his belief in Islam. And the first of the Banu Khatamah to accept Islam was 'Umair ibn 'Udai. . . . . And some men of the Banu Khatamah became Muslims on the day when the daughter of Marwan was slain, when they saw the honour shown to Islam.”
Another account tells us more particulars about this murder. It is said by some that 'Umair was blind, and that he had formerly been 'Asma's husband. He seems to have crept at night into the room where 'Asma slept, with an infant at her breast. Gently removing the child, he drove his sword into her body, piercing her through and through. When Muhammad heard of the murder next day, he pointed 'Umair out to the people in the Mosque as one that had rendered a service to God and to His Apostle.
Shortly before the murder of Abdu'l Huqaiq we read how the aged Umm Kirfa was killed by Zaid's command. Her legs were tied to camels, and these were driven in different directions until the unfortunate old woman was torn in pieces. Muhammad greeted Zaid warmly when he returned from this expedition, and uttered no reproaches for such barbarity.
Ibn Hisham 29 tells us that Muhammad sent 'Amr ibn Umayyah and Jabbar ibn Sakhar from Medinah to Mecca for the purpose of murdering Abu Sufyan ibn Harb. They did not succeed in their attempt, being detected and obliged to flee for their lives. But this biographer of Muhammad openly admits Muhammad's complicity in the plot. His account is too long to quote, but it tells of several cowardly murders which the two Muslim emissaries committed when endeavouring to escape from their pursuers.
As every man of learning is well aware, it would be easy to quote from Muslim writers of recognized authority many more 30 examples of Muhammad's conduct towards his enemies. But doubtless our honoured readers will be well content with what has now been pointed out on this 31 subject. We do not make any comment on these deeds of his, nor do we venture to express any opinion regarding them. But we should like to ask our Muslim friends to consider seriously what answer they would give to the following question: If Muhammad had made no claim to be a prophet, if he had been an idolater like the Arabs in the “Days of Ignorance”, if he had never learnt the will of God Most High, the Merciful, the Gracious; the Holy, but had been a great and valiant warrior only, like Timur-i-Lang (Tamerlane), intent only on making himself powerful and on indulging his tastes for perfumes and women; then, in what respect—except to religious forms and ceremonies and the dictation of the Qur'an to his amanuenses—would his conduct have differed from what it actually was, in spite of his claim to be the Apostle of God? In other words, In what respect was his conduct, in moral matters, better than that of such conquerors as aim only at success in this world and enjoyment of sensual pleasures? Does Muhammad's conduct in such matters as those which we have been considering, in chastity, forgiveness of injuries, meekness, mercifulness, goodness, form any genuine proof that he was Divinely commissioned as the Seal of the Prophets, God's last and most perfect messenger to His creatures? Or is it necessary to believe his claim, in spite of his conduct after this claim was first made?
III. As to the manner in which Inspiration is said to have come to Muhammad, we have certain statements made by leading Muslim historians and in the Traditions which in substance are held reliable by both Sunnis and Shi'ites. Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisham, Ibn Athir, Husain ibn Muhammad (in his Khamis), the Turkish writer 'Ali Halabi, and others, give us many details about this matter. The most valuable collection of Traditions upon the point is found in the Mishkatu’l Masabih (Kitabu'l Fitan: Babu'l Bu'th wa Bada'il Wahy), pp. 513-516.
We are told that he was raised up as an Apostle when forty years of age, and that the call first came when he was in retirement with Khadijah in a cave in Mount Hira near Mecca. Muhammad thought that the angel Gabriel came to him and bade him recite in the name of his Lord. Muhammad returned in “trepidation of heart” (برجف فوادِةِ), came in where Khadijah was, and cried out to her and her attendants, “Wrap me up, wrap me up.” They covered him up with wrappings until he recovered. He must have fallen into either a swoon or a fit of some kind, for they sprinkled him with water to bring him to himself. 32 In order to be certain that the spirit whom Muhammad assured her he saw in the apartment was not Satan, Khadijah used a test which the biographers of Muhammad tell us about. As a result of this, she was convinced. But Muhammad himself had many doubts, and was much distressed. Of his own state of mind about that time he says, according to tradition, “I was 33 minded to throw myself from a cliff.” After this came an interval, about the length of which the Traditions differ. Az Zuhri says: “The Inspiration 34 ceased from the Apostle of God for a space: therefore he grieved very much, and began to go early in the morning to the tops of the mountains, that he might fall from them. And whenever he reached a mountain peak, Gabriel appeared to him.” Al Bukhari's account is very similar, “The 35 prophet often sorrowed so much in the morning that he might fall down from the tops of the mountain peaks: therefore, whenever he reached the summit of a mountain that he might cast himself down from it, Gabriel appeared to him.”
In later times, too, whenever he fell into a state similar to that in which he thought that inspiration had first come to him, certain bodily symptoms made those near him expect to hear from him some new verses of the Qur'an 'Ayishah 36 tells us that, when Muhammad was asked how inspiration came to him, he said: “Sometimes there comes to me as it were the ringing of a bell, and it is very violent upon me. It leaves me, and I recollect what it said. And some lines the angel appears to me like a man and converse with me, and I remember what he says.” 'Ayishah herself adds: “Indeed I have seen him when the inspiration descends upon him on a very cold day and departs from him: and verily his forehead streams with perspiration.” Muslim 37 relates the following Tradition: “Whenever Inspiration was sent down upon him, the Prophet grew troubled thereat, and his countenance changed.”
Ibn Ishaq says 38 that, before the revelation first began to descend upon him, Muhammad's friends feared that he was suffering from the evil eye: ,and that, when it came upon him, almost the same illness attacked him again. What this particular malady was we can perhaps infer from the statements of the Traditionists. 'Ali Halabi, in his Turkish work entitled Insanu'l Uyun, informs us that many people declared that Aminah, Muhammad's mother, used a spell in order to recover him from the influence of the evil eye. On the authority of 'Amr ibn Sharhabil it is stated that Muhammad said to Khadijah, “When I was alone I heard a cry: 'O Muhammad, O Muhammad.”' In tradition (رواية) it is stated that he said, “I fear lest I should become a magician, lest one should proclaim me a follower of the Jinn”; and again: “I fear lest there should be madness” (or demoniac possession جنون) “in me”. After an accession of shivering and shutting his eyes, there used to come over him what resembled a swoon, his face would foam, and he would roar like a young camel: Abu Hurairah say's: “As for the Apostle of God, when inspiration descended on him, no one could raise his glance to him until the inspiration came to an end.” In Tradition it is stated that “He was troubled thereat, and his face foamed, and he closed his eyes, and perchance roared like the roaring of the young camel.' 'Umar ibnu'l Khattab says: “When inspiration descended on the Apostle of God, there used to be heard near his face as it were the buzzing 39 of bees.”
Somewhat similarly we read in the Turkish work, Mir'at i Ka' inat: “When 40 inspiration came with a message of threatening and warning, it descended with a terrible sound like that of a bell .... On the authority of Abu Hurairah, too, it is related that, when inspiration descended on the Apostle, they used to bathe his sacred head with henna, because of the headache that used to come on.”
In the Turkish Insanu'l 'Uyun of 'Al' Halabi we read: “Zaid ibn Thabit relates: 'When inspiration descended on the Prophet, he became very heavy. Once his leg fell upon mine, and, by God, there is no such heavy leg as was that of the Apostle of God. Sometimes a revelation would come to him when he was on his camel. Then it shuddered as if it would collapse, and it usually knelt down .... As often as the Prophet received inspiration, it seemed as if his soul were being taken from him, for he had always a kind of swoon and looked like one intoxicated.”
These strange phenomena did not begin in Muhammad's case only just before he claimed to be a Prophet. Of his childhood we know only a few facts, but one of them is that, when he was quite a young boy, living in the desert with his foster-parents, something similar occurred. The story is differently told by different authorities, but Muslim's account is this, based on a Tradition handed down from Anas: “As 41 for the Apostle of God, Gabriel came to him while he was playing with the (other) lads. He took him and threw (فَصَرَعَهُ) him on the ground and split his heart. Then he took out of it a drop of clotted blood, and said, 'This is Satan's portion of thee.' Then he washed it (the heart) in a basin of gold, in Zamzam-water, then he repaired it, and restored it to its place. And the lads came running to his mother—i.e. to his fostermother 42 —and said: 'Verily Muhammad has been killed.' They therefore went to meet him, and he had changed colour.” Anas said: “I used to see the mark of the needle on his chest.” The marginal note to this Tradition in the Mishkat calls attention to the fact that Muhammad's chest was opened on at least two other occasions,—during his Mi'raj, and when Gabriel visited him while residing in the cave at Hira. Leaving aside the reference to the Mi'raj, we see that the phenomenon which occurred in his childhood bore a great resemblance to that which often attended what was called in his later life the “descent of inspiration (الوحى)” upon Muhammad.
In the Siratu’r Rasul 43 of Ibn Hisham we are told that Halimah's husband fancied that something very serious was coming upon young Muhammad, and said. to her: “Halimah, I fear that this lad has become afflicted (قَدْ أُصِيبَ); therefore unite him with his people ere that become manifest in him.” When Halimah therefore gave him back to his mother Aminah, the latter was surprised and said, “Dost thou then fear that Satan has come upon him?” His foster-mother admitted that she did.
The question arises: How can it be proved that the phenomena which Tradition mentions really denoted the visits of Gabriel to Muhammad and the descent of Inspiration upon him? Historians inform us that the great Roman general Julius Caesar, the Emperor Peter the Great of Russia, and the first Emperor of the French, Napoleon Bonaparte, besides other great men, especially great warriors, exhibited the same symptoms. But they were not prophets or apostles of God. Those who were in attendance upon these men thought that they were afflicted with some terrible disease.
Some of our Muslim readers have doubtless studied the science of Medicine. Others have able physicians among their friends. Let these therefore inquire whether there is a disease, often beginning in early youth or childhood, among the symptoms of which are some or all of the following: The patient utters a strange, inarticulate cry, falls يُصْرَعُ)) 44 suddenly to the ground, becomes pale, then sometimes turns purple, the body trembles violently, the mouth foams, the eyes are shut, and the sick person seems on the point of death; he often sees flashes of light and bright colours, hears a ringing in his ears, and frequently suffers after the attack from a most violent headache. He often has a distinct warning before a fit comes on.
It has been asserted that there is such a disease, and that it is not very rare. The author of these pages is not a physician, for which cause—among others—he does not venture to offer an opinion upon the subject.
We must now leave it to our readers to consider, and by God's guidance to decide, whether the facts which we have learnt about Muhammad's conduct and character are such as to lead to the conclusion that he was really and in very truth a Prophet of God. Let it never be forgotten that the statements about him which we have quoted are not those of his enemies, but those made by his friends, his relatives, and those who most firmly believed in his claim to be the Seal of the Prophets, the Apostle of God.
1.> Romans 14:4.
2. Very full details of his conduct as a husband are given in the Rauzatu'l Ahbab.
3. i.e. in Surah 4:3.
4. Vol. ii, p. 132.
5. Ibn Hishim, vol. iii, p. 94; Ibn Athir, vol. ii, pp. 117, 118; Mishkat, pp. 262, 272.
6. Baizawi's Commentary, Vol. ii, pp. 340, 341.
7. Vol. ii, p. 188.
8. Commentators explain this of former prophets.
9. Commentary on ver. 36.
10. Vol. ii, p. 129.
11. For example, about Safiyyah, see Waqidi's Kitabu'l Maghazi, pp. 132, 133.
12. Siratu’r Rasul, Part II, p. 148, also p. 75; Waqidi, Kitdbu'l Maghazi, pp. 125, 126.
13. Ibn Hisham, vol. ii, p. 22.
14. Ibid., Vol. ii, p. 25. Ibn Athir tells the same story in vol. ii, p. 49.
15. Vol. ii, pp. 73, 74: also in Ibn Athir, vol.. ii, pp. 54, 55, and Rauzatu's Safa, vol. ii, pp. 100-102.
16. i.e. the verses which Ka'b had composed.
18. Vol. ii, pp. 74 and 75; Ibn Athir, vol. ii, pp. 54, 55.
19. According to the margin of Ibn Hisham, this name may also be pronounced Muhayyissah.
20. Another reading, according to Ibn Hisham, is Ibn Shunainah.
21. Vol. ii, p. 75.
22. Siratu’r Rasul, vol. ii, pp. 162, 163: compare Ibn Athir, vol. ii, pp. 55, 56; Rauzatu's Safa, Vol. ii, pp. 102, 103; Mishkat, pp. 523, 524. The murdered man is also known as Abu Rafi'.
23. In such a way as to shut her out.
24. [Doubtless the narrator.]
25. Compare the account we have quoted above, p. 318.
26. See Ibn Hisham's Siratu’r Rasul, Vol. ii, p. 218, where we read that Muhammad ordered two slave girls to be killed at Mecca for lampooning him. One escaped, but a third, Sarah, was murdered later.
27. Siratu’r Rasul, vol. iii, p. 90.
28. Siratu’r Rasul, vol. iii, pp. 90, 91.
29. Vol. iii, pp. 89, 90; Ibn Athir, vol. ii, pp. 63, 64.
30. For example, the murder of Mukhairiq; Ibn Hisham, vol. ii, p. 87.
31. See Al Kindi's remarks; Risalah, pp. 47. 48.
32. Ibn Athir, vol. ii, p. 17.
35. Mishkat, p. 514: see also the Turkish work, Mir'at i Kainat, vol. i, p. 409.
36. Mishkat, p. 514.
37. Mishkat, p. 514.
38. [The original Arabic of the quotations in this paragraph will be found in the Arabic edition of the (unrevised) Mizanu'l Haqq, printed by Brockhaus, Leipzig, 1874, p. 221.]
39. Quoted also in Mir'at i Ka'inat, vol. i, p. 411.
41. Mishkat, p. 516.
43. Vol. i, p. 56.
44. [Translators into Arabic should use this word, because (صَرْعْ) means Epilepsy.]