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Monday, October 1, 2012

ISLAM-Muhammad’s Low Opinion of Women

Banish Them to Their Beds and Scourge Them!

Muhammad’s Low Opinion of Women

The status of women in the Arab world is a source of frequent criticism against Islam. Women in the West have fixed their gaze on the polygamy, veils, and other inequalities in Muslim countries and are concerned about the rapid spread of Islam. When Western critics charge that Islam teaches the inferiority of women, Muslims often argue that any disparity between men and women is the result of cultural differences, rather than of Islamic law:
The Qur’an enshrined a new status for women and gave them rights that they could have only dreamed of before in Arabia, so why the seeming disparity between what once was and what now appears to be? The answer lies in the deterioration of basic Islamic education that occurred in the Muslim world after the disasters of the Mongol invasions and the Crusades in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries. . . . Cultures that arose since that time have been characterized by customs and local cultural leanings more than genuine Islamic values.[1]
The treatment of women in the Muslim world, then, is the result of the Crusades and the Mongol invasions. If it weren’t for the Christians and the Mongols, Muslim women would still be enjoying the prominent status given to them by Muhammad.
Muslim apologists have done an outstanding job convincing people that Muhammad was a champion of women’s rights. Indeed, arguments for Muhammad’s liberation of women have convinced some that "Muhammad was probably the greatest champion of women’s rights the world has ever seen."[2] Descriptions of Muhammad’s improvements in the area of gender relations abound in Muslim writings:
So far back as the seventh century of the Christian era, Islam abolished the horrible practice of female infanticide prevalent among the pagan Arabs, gave clear directions leading to the restriction of polygamy, restrained the unlimited rights exercised by men over their wives, and gave woman both spiritual and material equality with man.[3]
Arab human rights were quite backward, even for the time. Women had precious few rights. A woman became the property of a man upon marriage, and no woman could refuse a match made by her father. Spousal abuse was rampant, with no recourse to any quarter for help. Upon the death of her husband, a woman could be inherited by her son and made her son’s wife. Female infanticide in which newborn baby girls were buried alive in the sand was quite common in a society that considered surplus females a burden. Women had no divorce or well-defined inheritance rights and certainly no political vote. A man could divorce without reason and leave a woman penniless, and there was no limit to the number of wives a man could have, nor rules for how each should be treated. . . . Arabian custom had always dictated that women should take no public role in religious or political activity. The superiority of men over women in all respects was also a widely accepted notion. Muhammad changed that notion by asserting that men and women were equals before God in every sphere. . . . To examine the record of Muhammad and his mission is to gain a new respect for the improvements he made in the lives of both men and women.[4]
The Qur’an provided women with explicit rights to inheritance, to property, the obligation to testify in a court of law, and the right to divorce. It made explicit prohibitions on the use of violence against female children and women as well as on duress in marriage and community affairs. . . . Women were equally responsible for ensuring that all religious duties of the individual and society were fulfilled, in terms of punishment for social, criminal and moral infractions. They were also offered equal opportunities to attain the ultimate boon: paradise and proximity to Allah if they strove with all their means to ‘establish what is good and forbid what is evil’.[5]
While it is true that Muhammad raised the status of Arabian women in some respects,[6] we cannot let this fact cloud certain other issues, namely, (1) that Muhammad permitted husbands to beat their wives, (2) that he repeatedly proclaimed the inferiority of women’s intellectual abilities, (3) that he taught that women’s prospects for the afterlife are extremely bleak, and (4) that, according to Muhammad, it is acceptable for men to rape their female captives. When combined with the above passages describing Muhammad’s beneficial impact on society, these four facts allow us to arrive at a more accurate and well-rounded picture of Muhammad’s view of women.

Four Facts

FACT #1: The Qur’an allows (or, perhaps, commands) men to beat their wives into subservience. If a wife doesn’t listen to her husband, the husband should admonish her. If that doesn’t work, he is to make her sleep in a separate bed. However, if the wife still doesn’t respect her husband’s authority, even after she has been banished to another bed, the husband is told to physically punish her. Consider three translations of the following verse:
Men are in charge of women, because Allah hath made the one of them to excel the other, and because they spend of their property (for the support of women). So good women are the obedient, guarding in secret what Allah hath guarded. As for those from whom ye fear rebellion, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and scourge them. Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them. Lo! Allah is ever High Exalted, Great.[7]
Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.[8]
Men are the protectors And maintainers of women, Because Allah has given The one more (strength) Than the other, and because They support them From their means. Therefore the righteous women Are devoutly obedient, and guard In (the husband’s) absence What Allah would have them guard. As to those women On whose part ye fear Disloyalty and ill-conduct, Admonish them (first), (Next), refuse to share their beds, (And last) beat them (lightly); But if they return to obedience, Seek not against them Means (of annoyance): For Allah is Most High, Great (above you all).[9]
Muslim translators have struggled with this passage and have sought ways to water down its clear meaning. For instance, Ali adds the word "lightly" to his translation, which doesn’t occur in the original Arabic. However, even if we allow Ali to tone down the parts of the Qur’an he finds offensive, the verse still allows husbands to beat their wives. Hence, according to God’s last and greatest prophet, spousal abuse is permissible, and perhaps even required. Modern nations that have established laws against spousal abuse are therefore in direct violation of Allah’s command in the Qur’an.

FACT #2: According to Muhammad, women lack common sense because their minds are deficient. Of course, this declaration didn’t go unchallenged. To his credit, Muhammad allowed women to question him about their intellectual deficiencies. His response to these questions was illuminating:
[Muhammad said]: O womenfolk, you should give charity and ask much forgiveness for I saw you in bulk amongst the dwellers of Hell. A wise lady among them said: Why is it, Messenger of Allah, that our folk is in bulk in Hell? Upon this the Holy Prophet observed: You curse too much and are ungrateful to your spouses. I have seen none lacking in common sense and failing in religion but (at the same time) robbing the wisdom of the wise, besides you. Upon this the woman remarked: What is wrong with our common sense and with religion? He (the Holy Prophet) observed: Your lack of common sense (can be well judged from the fact) that the evidence of two women is equal to one man, that is a proof of the lack of common sense.[10]
The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "Isn’t the witness of a woman equal to half of that of a man?" The women said: "Yes." He said: "This is because of the deficiency of her mind."[11]
Notice here that, in the first passage, Muhammad justifies his claim that women lack common sense by stating that their testimony is worth half that of a man. Yet, in the second passage, Muhammad justifies his claim that the testimony of women is half as good as men’s testimony by stating that women have deficient minds. This is a classic example of circular reasoning. We can imagine a conversation between Muhammad and a more critical questioner:
Questioner: "O Muhammad! Why is Hell full of women?"
Muhammad: "Because they lack common sense!"
Questioner: "How do you know they lack common sense?"
Muhammad: "Their lack of common sense can be seen from the fact that their testimony is only half as good as a man’s testimony."
Questioner: "But why is their testimony half as good as a man’s?"
Muhammad: "Because of the deficiency of their minds!"
Questioner: "How do you know that their minds are deficient?"
Muhammad: "The deficiency of their minds can be seen from the fact that their testimony is worth half the testimony of a man."
Questioner: "Again, why is their testimony half as good?"
Muhammad: "Because their minds are deficient!"
Questioner: "Maybe the only thing deficient here is your argument."
Notice also that Muhammad’s claims here are falsifiable. That is, they can be tested and, in theory, disproved. We could easily set up an experiment to see whether Muhammad’s statements about the inferiority of a woman’s intellect are correct. We could also set up an experiment in which a group of men and a group of women each witness the same accident. If the testimonies gathered from the male group are twice as accurate as the testimonies taken from the female group, Muhammad’s statements will have been vindicated. On the other hand, if the reports from the two groups are similar, we can dismiss Muhammad’s ideas as the sexist comments of a man affected by cultural biases.

FACT #3: Muhammad offered women little hope for the afterlife. Indeed, he clearly states that most of the inhabitants of hell are women who were ungrateful to their husbands (though he never suggests that ungrateful husbands will receive similar punishment[12]). This means that, after being admonished, banished to a separate bed, and beaten by her husband, a willful woman can look forward to an eternity in hell:
The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "I saw paradise and stretched my hands towards a bunch (of its fruits) and had I taken it, you would have eaten from it as long as the world remains. I also saw the Hell-fire and I had never seen such a horrible sight. I saw that most of the inhabitants were women." The people asked: "O Allah’s Apostle! Why is it so?" The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "Because of their ungratefulness." It was asked whether they are ungrateful to Allah. The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "They are ungrateful to their companions of life (husbands) and ungrateful to good deeds."[13]
[Muhammad said], "O women! Give to charity, for I have seen that the majority of the dwellers of Hell-Fire were women." The women asked, "O Allah’s Apostle! What is the reason for it?" He said: "O women! You curse frequently, and are ungrateful to your husbands. I have not seen anyone more deficient in intelligence and religion than you. O women, some of you can lead a cautious man astray."[14]
However, even if these women were to stop cursing and to start thanking their husbands, their prospects for the afterlife would still leave much to be desired. According to Muhammad, Muslim women can look forward to an eternity of standing in corners, waiting for men to come and have sex with them:
Allah’s Apostle (The blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "In Paradise there is a pavilion made of a single hollow pearl sixty miles wide, in each corner of which there are wives who will not see those in the other corners; and the believers will visit and enjoy them."[15]
Hence, good Muslim women who respect their husbands in this life will have the opportunity to continue their sexual service to their husbands in "Paradise." Apparently, Muhammad considered this to be an appropriate view of Paradise; many women would rightly disagree.

FACT #4: The Qur’an permits Muslims to have sex with their female captives and slaves (i.e. those "whom their right hands possess"). As the Muslim armies raided town after town, they captured many women, who would often be sold or traded. Yet, since the Muslim men were a long way from their wives, they needed wisdom from God to guide them in their treatment of their female captives:
The Believers must (Eventually) win through—Those who humble themselves In their prayers; Who avoid vain talk; Who are active in deeds Of charity; Who abstain from sex, Except with those joined To them in the marriage bond, Or (the captives) whom Their right hands possess—For (in their case) they are Free from blame.[16]
Not so those devoted To Prayer—Those who remain steadfast To their prayer; And those in whose wealth Is a recognized right For the (needy) who asks And him who is prevented (For some reason from asking); And those who hold To the truth of the Day Of Judgement; And those who fear The displeasure of their Lord—For their Lord’s displeasure Is the opposite of Peace And Tranquility—And those who guard Their chastity, Except with their wives And the (captives) whom Their right hands possess—For (then) they are not To be blamed.[17]
The Muslim practice of having sex with captured women is reported often in the Hadith, where we find Muslims perplexed about what to do with their captives. It wasn’t long before Allah sent a revelation allowing the confused soldiers to sleep with the women:
Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) sent an army to Autas and encountered the enemy and fought with them. Having overcome them and taken them captives, the Companions of Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) seemed to refrain from having intercourse with captive women because of their husbands being polytheists. Then Allah, Most High, sent down regarding that: "And women already married, except those whom your right hands possess (4:24)" (i.e. they were lawful for them when their Idda period came to an end).[18]
We went out with Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) on the expedition to the Bi’l-Mustaliq and took captive some excellent Arab women; and we desired them, for we were suffering from the absence of our wives, (but at the same time) we also desired ransom for them. So we decided to have sexual intercourse with them but by observing azl (withdrawing the male sexual organ before emission of semen to avoid conception). But we said: We are doing an act whereas Allah’s Messenger is amongst us; why not ask him? So we asked Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him), and he said: It does not matter if you do not do it, for every soul that is to be born up to the Day of Resurrection will be born.[19]
We went out with Allah’s Apostle (The blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) for the invasion of Bun Al-Mustaliq and we received captives from among the Arab captives and we desired women and celibacy became hard on us and we loved to do coitus interruptus [same as "azl" above]. So when we intended to do coitus interruptus, we said: "How can we do coitus interruptus before asking Allah’s Apostle (The blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) who is present among us? We asked (him) about it and he said: "It is better for you not to do so, for if any soul till the Day of Resurrection is predestined to exist, it will exist."[20]
Jabir bin Abdullah (Allah be pleased with them) reported that a person asked Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) saying: I have a slave-girl and I practice azl with her, whereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: This cannot prevent that which Allah has decreed. The person then came (after some time) and said: Messenger of Allah, the slave-girl about whom I talked to you has conceived, whereupon Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) said: I am the servant of Allah and His Messenger.[21]
The Muslims had originally refrained from having sex with their captives because they were the wives of polytheists; nevertheless, God sent a message saying that they were free to have sex with the women. Modern Muslims believe that this sexual intercourse would only have occurred after marriage, but this view is clearly false. Muhammad’s followers said that they wanted to have sex with the women but that they still wanted to sell them. They asked Muhammad about performing coitus interruptus, but Muhammad answered that it doesn’t really matter. All children who are destined to be born will be born, so it doesn’t matter if a man practices coitus interruptus or not.
Thus, the Qur’an permits men to have sex with their female captives (whose husbands were sometimes still alive[22]), and the Hadith provides examples of when this was practiced. Yet we must follow this fact through to its logical conclusion. The Muslims decided to have sex with their captives, whom they were later going to sell. These captives were women whose husbands and families had been exterminated by the Muslims. Would these women gladly consent to sexual intercourse with the men who had killed their families? Probably not. But since the Qur’an and Muhammad authorized sex with these captives, it is highly probable that Muhammad allowed Muslims to rape their captives.


Muhammad improved the lives of women in Arabia in some ways.[23] However, Muslims sometimes use this fact as evidence of Muhammad’s prophethood. Such an argument is absurd. All that is implied by the improvement in women’s lives is that Islam wasn’t as bad as the culture before it, which says more about the pagans than it does about the Muslims. For, as we have seen, Muhammad permitted spousal abuse, stated repeatedly that women have inferior minds, claimed that most of the people in hell are women, and allowed his men to have sex with their captives. This situation was still probably better than that of women prior to the rise of Islam; however, Muhammad was far from being "the greatest champion of women’s rights the world has ever seen."

1 Yahiya Emerick, Muhammad (Indianapolis: Alpha Books, 2002), p. 142.
2 Pierre Crabites, cited in Allama Sir Abdullah Al-Mamun Al-Suhrawardy, The Wisdom of Muhammad (New York: Citadel Press, 2001), p. 20.
3 Ibid., p. 20.
4 Emerick, pp. 8-9, 141, 142.
5 Ziauddin Sardar and Merryl Wyn Davies, The No-Nonsense Guide to Islam (Oxford: New Internationalist Publications, 2004), pp. 121, 122.
6 In their efforts to provide evidence for Islam, Muslims tend to exaggerate the immorality in Arabia before the rise of Islam, so much so that they sometimes conflict with their own claims. For instance, it is often claimed that female infanticide was horribly widespread in Arabia, and that Muhammad improved the situation by outlawing infanticide. Yet Muslims also maintain that there was unbridled polygamy in Arabia, in which men would sometimes marry hundreds of women; Muhammad supposedly improved the situation by limiting men to no more than four wives. The problem here is obvious. If everyone was murdering their daughters, how could there possibly have been so many women to marry? If infanticide was common, women would have been a rare commodity. But there were plenty of women to go around, so infanticide couldn’thave been very common. Further, when Muslims are criticized for allowing polygamy, they often argue that polygamy was acceptable in the time of Muhammad because of the shortage of men. Yet if infanticide was as common as Muslims claim, there would have been an even greater shortage of women, so that polygamy would have been unnecessary.
7 Qur’an 4:34, Mohammed Pickthall Translation.
8 Qur’an 4:34, M.H. Shakir Translation.
9 Qur’an 4:34, Abdullah Yusuf Ali Translation.
10 Sahih Muslim, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, tr., Number 142.
11 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dr. Muhammad Matraji, tr. (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002), Number 2658.
12 This raises an important question: Were Muslim women more ungrateful to their husbands than husbands were to their wives? This doesn’t seem likely. According to Muslim apologists, women’s rights were almost nonexistent in Arabia before Islam (but see Note 23). Would Muslim men have had a great deal of gratitude towards their wives? Probably not. The attitude would most likely have been, "You women had better thank us for treating you so well." As it turns out, this is exactly the attitude we see in Muhammad, who tells ungrateful women that their ingratitude will earn them a place in hell.
13 Ibid., Number 1052.
14 Ibid., Number 1462.
15 Ibid., Number 4879.
16 Qur’an 23:1-6, Abdullah Yusuf Ali Translation.
17 Ibid., 70:22-30.
18 Sahih Muslim, Number 3432.
19 Ibid., Number 3371.
20 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 4138.
21 Sahih Muslim, Number 3384.
23 In other ways, women’s rights seem to have taken a step backwards with the rise of Islam. For example, Muhammad’s first wife, Khadija, was a successful business woman, who was able to select whomever she wished as a husband. Thus, we know that women were able to have prominent positions in society and could wield a great deal of power before the rise of Islam. Under Islamic Law, however, women couldn’t so much as leave their houses without the permission of their husbands (and could only do so in the proper attire).

ISLAM-Don’t Lose Your Head! Four Reasons for the Early Spread of Islam

Don’t Lose Your Head!

Four Reasons for the Early Spread of Islam

Muslims often cite the early spread of Islam as evidence of its divine origin. While history shows that Islam spread rapidly, many Muslims (and many non-Muslims) have a distorted picture of why it spread rapidly. For instance, in a popular Islamic apologetic, Mawdudi claims that Islam spread because of Muhammad’s eloquence and conviction:
When [Muhammad] began preaching his Message, all of Arabia stood in awe and wonder and was bewitched by his wonderful eloquence and oratory. It was so impressive and captivating that his worst enemies were afraid of hearing it, lest it should penetrate deep into the recesses of their hearts and carry them off their feet making them forsake their old religion and culture. . . . He came before them as an illustrious politician, a great leader, a judge of the highest eminence, and an incomparable general. . . . A nation which for centuries had produced not one single great man worthy of that name now gave birth, under his influence and guidance, to thousands of noble souls who were to travel to far-off corners of the earth to preach and teach the principles of religion, morality and civilization. He accomplished this feat not through any lure, oppression or cruelty, but by his captivating manner, his winsome personality, and the conviction of his teachings. With his noble and gentle behavior, he befriended even his enemies. He captured the hearts of the people with his boundless sympathy and human kindness. . . . By his forceful personality, he made a permanent impression on the hearts of thousands of his disciples and molded them according to his liking. . . . Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such distinction, another revolutionary of such brilliance and splendor?[1]
Mawdudi apparently finds it impressive that early Muslims converted to Islam because of Muhammad’s "eloquence and oratory," "his captivating manner," and "the conviction of his teachings." Yet these are feeble motives for conversion: many Germans committed themselves to Adolf Hitler’s political movement for the exact same reasons. Nevertheless, even if these grounds were entirely justified, Mawdudi still presents us with an incomplete picture. There are many other reasons for the rapid spread of Islam, but Muslims are understandably ashamed of acknowledging them. Let us briefly discuss four such reasons.

Reason One: Muhammad’s Ability to Breed Rage in His Followers
Historically, we know of at least one individual who was so impressed by Islam’s ability to inspire men to kill without question that he concluded that Islam must be true:
The apostle said, "Kill any Jew that falls into your power." Thereupon Muhayyisa bin Mas’ud leapt upon Ibn Sunayna, a Jewish merchant with whom they had social and business relations, and killed him. Huwayyisa was not a Muslim at the time though he was the elder brother. When Muhayyisa killed him Huwayyisa began to beat him, saying, "You enemy of God, did you kill him when much of the fat on your belly comes from his wealth?" Muhayyisa answered, "Had the one who ordered me to kill him ordered me to kill you I would have cut your head off." He said that this was the beginning of Huwayyisa’s acceptance of Islam. The other replied, "By God, if Muhammad had ordered you to kill me would you have killed me?" He said, "Yes, by God, had he ordered me to cut off your head I would have done so." He exclaimed, "By God, a religion which can bring you to this is marvelous!" And he became a Muslim.[2]
In this passage, Muhammad tells his followers to "Kill any Jew that falls into your power." Muhayyisa, acting on Muhammad’s orders, kills a Jewish merchant named Ibn Sunayna. Huwayyisa doesn’t understand how Muhayyisa could turn against a friend of the family so quickly, so Muhayyisa explains it to him. Essentially, Muhayyisa’s justification for the murder is that Muhammad told him to do it, and that, if commanded by Muhammad, he would murder anyone, even his own family. Huwayyisa is much impressed by his brother’s willingness to mindlessly follow the orders of Muhammad, so he converts to Islam, shouting, "By God, a religion which can bring you to this [i.e. a readiness to kill your own family] is marvelous!"
Huwayyisa’s admiration for his brother’s dedication was probably shared by many in the early hours of the Islamic Empire. Young men without direction were suddenly transformed into ardent followers of a new system of belief, and they would do anything for their prophet. "Surely there must be something to this new religion," people would think. Even so, the devotion of believers is not an infallible test for truth. If it were, we would have to conclude that Christianity, Mormonism, Islam, Buddhism, communism, and Nazism are all true, for all of these systems have produced dedicated adherents.

Reason Two: Patently False Prophecies
Many people were impressed when Muhammad spoke. He seemed to know everything, and he confidently answered difficult questions that no one else could answer. The problem is that many of his answers later turned out to be completely false. Consider the following answers given by Muhammad:
When Abdullah bin Salama heard of the arrival of the Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) at Madina, he came to him and said: "I am asking you about three things which nobody knows but a prophet: What is the first portent of the Hour? What will be the first meal taken by the people of Paradise? Why does a child resemble its father, and why does it resemble its maternal uncle?" Allah’s Apostle (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: "Gabriel has just now told me of their answers." . . . "The first portent of the Hour will be a fire that will bring together the people from the east to the west; the first meal of the people of Paradise will be extra-lobe of fish-liver. As for the resemblance of the child to its parents: If a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and gets discharge first, the child will resemble the father, and if the woman gets discharge first, the child will resemble her." On that Abdullah bin Salam said: "I testify that you are the Apostle of Allah."[3]
Here Muhammad is presented with three questions: (1) What is the sign that the end is coming? (2) What will the first meal in Heaven be? (3) How come a child sometimes looks like its father, but other times resembles its mother’s family? Notice that Muhammad’s answers to the first two questions—a great fire in the end-times and fish-liver in heaven—are utterly unfalsifiable; that is, it is impossible to test them or prove them wrong. Muhammad could have just as easily claimed that the "portent of the hour" will be that three frogs will recite the Qur’an, and that the first meal in heaven will be peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. In other words, we have no reason to think that Muhammad’s answers are correct, for we have no way to test their accuracy. Even so, Muhammad’s third answer is falsifiable; it can easily be tested in the light of modern science. So how does Muhammad’s answer stand up to criticism? Not very well. Women don’t have a "discharge" that contributes to the appearance of the offspring. They have an egg, but this isn’t a discharge. Further, a child’s appearance has nothing to do with which parent has the first discharge. Muhammad’s answer, as it turns out, is wrong.
But notice that his answer won him an important Jewish convert, who was amazed at Muhammad’s brilliance. One of Muhammad’s greatest strengths was that he had complete confidence in his own answers, yet this confidence was misplaced. His assurance led others to believe that he must be correct, but he wasn’t. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of Muhammad’s proclamations is that Muslims have never recovered from their awe at his claims, even though many of these claims have been shown to be false. To this day, Muslims retain their misplaced confidence in the sayings of their prophet, and Muhammad’s answers are still winning converts.
(For more on Muhammad’s scientific blunders, see "Talking Ants and Shrinking Humans.")

Reason Three: Boundless Greed
Muhammad made an enticing guarantee to those who joined him in his struggle:
[Muhammad said]: "The example of a Struggle in Allah’s Cause—and Allah knows better who really strives in His Cause—is like a person who fasts and prays continuously. Allah guarantees that He will admit the Struggler in His cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty."[4]
[Muhammad] said: "Khosrau will be ruined, and there will be no Khosrau after him, and Caesar will surely be ruined and there will be no Caesar after him, and you will spend their treasures in Allah’s Cause."[5]
If a seventh century pagan Arab rejected Islam, he was guaranteed nothing. He may be poor all his life, and he wouldn’t know what would happen to him when he died. But Muhammad guaranteed that if a person dies fighting Islam’s enemies, he will enter Paradise, and that even if he survives, he will return home "safely with rewards and war booty." Either way, pagans were much better off (financially) if they became Muslims.
This promise of rewards and war booty was an important factor in the early spread of Islam. Indeed, using war booty to win converts was part of Muhammad’s strategy. For example, when Muhammad was accused of distributing the spoils of war unevenly, he replied, "Are you disturbed in mind because of the good things of this life by which I win over a people that they may become Muslims while I entrust you to your Islam?"[6] Imam Muslim adds: "[W]hen the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) conquered Hunain he distributed the booty, and he bestowed upon those whose hearts it was intended to win."[7]
Muhammad’s promises of wealth were so great that, when difficulties arose, his followers sometimes complained that he wasn’t delivering on all that he had promised:
The situation became serious and fear was everywhere. The enemy came at them from above and below until the believers imagined vain things, and disaffection was rife among the disaffected to the point that Ma’attib bin Qusyahr brother of B. Amr bin Auf said, "Muhammad used to promise us that we should eat the treasures of Chosroes and Caesar and today not one of us can feel safe in going to the privy!"[8]
These passages stress the importance of wealth and booty as a motive for conversion. Muhammad promised his followers that they would one day spend the treasures of Caesar. He distributed war booty after every military campaign, and he used his wealth to win converts. Thus, many early Muslims embraced the religion with impure motives, yet Muhammad saw nothing wrong with such conversions.

Reason Four: Fear of Death
Muhammad’s personality, conviction, and eloquence certainly played a role in winning people to Islam. However, he won few supporters when he relied on his "winsome personality" and sincerity to spread Islam. It is only when Muhammad turned to violence and oppression that we find large conversions to Islam. For instance, Muslim writings report a large number of conversions that took place after the assassination of a woman who had criticized Islam:
When the apostle heard what she had said he said, "Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?" Umayr bin Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he said, "You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!" When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, "Two goats won’t butt their heads about her," so Umayr went back to his people. . . . The day after Bint Marwan was killed the men of B. Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam.[9]
Whereas the men of Khatma became Muslims when they saw Islam’s power over others, many individuals converted because their own lives were in danger. Ka’b bin Zuhayr heard from his brother that Muhammad "had killed some of the men in Mecca who had satirized and insulted him and that the Quraysh poets who were left . . . had fled in all directions."[10] The brother then suggested that Ka’b go to Muhammad and convert before it was too late. Ka’b heeded his brother’s advice:
When Ka’b received the missive he was deeply distressed and anxious for his life. His enemies in the neighbourhood spread alarming reports about him saying that he was as good as slain. Finding no way out, he wrote his ode in which he praised the apostle and mentioned his fear and the slanderous reports of his enemies. Then he set out for Medina and stayed with a man of Juhayna whom he knew, according to my information. He took him to the apostle when he was praying morning prayers, and he prayed with him. The man pointed out the apostle to him and told him to go and ask for his life. He got up and went and sat by the apostle and placed his hand in his, the apostle not knowing who he was. He said, "O apostle, Ka’b bin Zhayr has come to ask security from you as a repentant Muslim. Would you accept him as such if he came to you?" When the apostle said that he would, he confessed that he was Ka’b bin Zuhayr.[11]
History also shows that some were directly threatened with death (in the presence of Muhammad) if they didn’t convert:
[Muhammad] said: "Woe to you, Abu Sufyan, isn’t it time that you recognize that I am God’s apostle?" He answered, "As to that I still have some doubt." I said to him, "Submit and testify that there is no God but Allah and that Muhammad is the apostle of God before you lose your head," so he did so.[12]
Abu Sufyan doubted the prophethood of Muhammad, yet he was told to convert before he lost his head. Fully aware of the countless people that had been murdered by Muhammad, Abu Sufyan submitted to the Prophet.
Thus, fear of death played a crucial role in converting people to Islam. Since Islam didn’t really take root until Muhammad began spreading it through violence, fear of death may have been the single most important factor in the early spread of Islam.
(For more on Muhammad’s violence, see "Murdered by Muhammad.")

There are many reasons for the early spread of Islam. Muhammad won numerous converts due to his conviction and sincerity, and many were impressed by his acts of kindness, charitable deeds, and dedication to prayer. Nevertheless, these aren’t necessarily good reasons to convert to a religion. We might reasonably infer that a true prophet will be sincere and dedicated to his religion, but we can’t thereby conclude that a sincere and dedicated individual must be a true prophet. Many religious leaders throughout history have shared certain admirable qualities; this doesn’t mean that they were all speaking the truth.
In choosing a religion, a person’s soul may very well hang in the balance; it is therefore not a matter to be taken lightly. Conversion should be a turn towards the truth, not merely a turn towards a "winsome personality." As we have seen, people dedicated themselves to Islam because they were impressed by its ability to inspire men to commit murder. They chose Islam because Muhammad had complete confidence in his revelations, even though many of these revelations turned out to be false. Muhammad won converts by enticing them with riches and by threatening them with death. These aren’t good reasons to adopt a system of belief.
This isn’t to say that there are no good reasons for committing oneself to a religion. I’m only suggesting that we must be very careful about where we place our faith, for false teachings and false teachers abound in our world. But the truth is out there; it’s simply not found in Islam. However, there is another religion that, like Islam, spread very rapidly. Like the early Muslims, its followers were dedicated. Like Muhammad, its founder was sincere and eloquent. Yet it didn’t spread through violence,[13] or through false prophecies, or through the enticement of worldly riches. Instead, it spread because its founder, Jesus of Nazareth, had risen from the dead. This miracle showed that God had approved of Jesus’ teachings, and that we should all therefore give heed to his message. But what was his message? Jesus said that he would die on the cross for the sins of the world, and that, by putting our faith in him, we would gain eternal life. Christianity is the only religion that has this historical verification to prove its authenticity. It is the only religion we can know is true. The early Christians, then, unlike the early Muslims, had a very good reason for converting.

1 Abul, A’la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam (New York: Islamic Circle of North America, 1986), p. 58, 59, 67.
2 Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah (The Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, tr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 369.
3 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Dr. Muhammad Matraji, tr. (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002), Number 3329.
4 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 2787.
5 Ibid., Number 3027.
6 Ibn Ishaq, p. 596.
7 Sahih Muslim, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, tr., Number 2313.
8 Ibn Ishaq, pp. 453-454.
9 Ibid., p. 676.
10 Ibid., p. 597.
11 Ibid., p. 598.
12 Ibid., p. 547.
13 Muslims may respond by arguing that Christianity used violence during the Crusades, Inquisition, etc. However, it must be noted, first, that Christianity only used violence after it merged with the Roman Empire. Once the Church was in league with the Roman emperors, it opted for the Roman way of doing things. This was an error on the part of Christians, but it has nothing to do with the teachings of Jesus. Violence had no part in the early spread of Christianity. Second, this use of violence was contrary to Jesus’ teachings (see Matthew 5:38-47). Hence, whereas violence is completely consistent with both the words and deeds of Muhammad, it is inconsistent with the words and deeds of Jesus.

ISLAM-The Two Faces of Islam! Why All Muslims Benefit From Terrorism

The Two Faces of Islam . . . Still Smiling

Why All Muslims Benefit From Terrorism

My hungry toddler woke me up this morning. After making his breakfast, I turned on my computer and found that London had just been struck by terrorists. As I watched news clips for the next few hours, I noticed that, for many in the West, the terror attacks brought back painful memories of September 11th, 2001. For me it was a little different. My thoughts weren’t drawn to the attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, but to an attack on a local mosque that took place shortly thereafter.
Following the 9-11 attacks, a few enraged vandals smashed the windows of the Islamic Center near Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia. When the pastor of a nearby church saw the students vandalizing the mosque, he called the police. Later in the day, police and school officials held a meeting to help ease some of the tension. After the meeting, an angry attendee caused a brief panic when he claimed that Islam is a religion of violence and bloodshed, and that the terrorists were only doing what they were commanded to do in the Qur’an. Several people (including myself) argued against him, confidently assuring the man that Islam is actually a religion of peace.
My beliefs about Islam have changed since then (mostly because I’ve studied Islam). Nevertheless, I recently realized why I had been so quick to defend the Muslim religion. Over the years, I’ve known several Muslims, and they have all been kind, peaceful individuals. Indeed, despite the popular portrait of Muslims burning flags and desecrating images of George Bush, the majority of Muslims are normal, faithful, peaceful people, going about their daily lives with no intention of blowing up buildings or of burning anyone’s flag. Many in the West deny this, but they typically do so because they have never so much as talked to a Muslim.

The benevolent nature of these Muslims has a profound psychological effect on Westerners. It causes us to say, "Wait a minute. Islam can’t be bad, because Muslims are such nice people. Thus, the terrorists who blow up buildings and subways must be extremists." Once we have convinced ourselves of this, we may even find ourselves defending Islam, as I once did. We know that people are angry at terrorists, and we know that some of these angry people may want to take out their anger on Muslims. So we end up defending Islam in order to protect our Muslim friends. While protecting people is certainly a noble goal, defending Islam is an entirely different story.
If someone were to ask me, "David, do you believe that Islam is a religion of peace?" my answer would not be "Yes" or "No." Rather, my response would be, "First tell me what you mean when you say ‘Islam,’ for it is a term that is used in different ways." If by "Islam" we mean the religion that is practiced by more than a billion people around the world, I could reasonably answer with a qualified "Yes," because it is a religion of peace for many people (though not for all). But if by "Islam" we mean the religion taught by Muhammad, I would have to respond with a resounding "No."

At this point my Muslim readers will be saying to themselves, "What does this infidel mean? There is only one Islam, perfectly preserved in the Holy Qur’an from the time it was given to Prophet Muhammad by the angel Gabriel." However, much like the idea that the Qur’an has been perfectly preserved, the idea that Islam has only one face is completely false. There has always been a psychological crisis in Islam, and if I were to diagnose it as having a particular mental illness, I would probably argue that it suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder. Islam has never been able to decide whether it wants to live in peace with unbelievers, or to pile their severed, unbelieving heads into a giant pyramid. I’m sure many would disagree here, but they would be disagreeing with one of the most empirically verifiable facts in the universe. Think about it. One Muslim beheads an innocent woman to protest the war in Iraq, while another Muslim curses him for slaying the innocent. One group of Muslims flies an aircraft into a building, while another group condemns the attack. One Muslim detonates a bomb on a bus filled with passengers, while another Muslim says on the evening news, "Islam is a religion of peace." Each side quotes the Qur’an to support its actions. However, it may be even more important to note that each of them is following the example set by Muhammad.
The reason that Islam suffers from Multiple Personality Disorder is that its founder also suffered from this disorder. I don’t mean this to be taken literally, of course. It is only meant to describe a peculiar phenomenon that went on in Muhammad’s head. When Muhammad first began receiving his "revelations," many of his neighbors in the city of Mecca took it upon themselves to mock and persecute him. Muhammad was a threat both to their immoral lifestyles and to their source of wealth (the pagan idols of the city brought plenty of revenue), and so he had to be stopped, or at least discredited. During this period, Muhammad was humble, devout in many ways, obedient to the message handed down to him, faithful in giving to the poor, and, in general, a fine moral example. In essence, he was like the many fine examples of dedicated Muslims we see in the world today. He preached a religion of peace, and the hadiths we have from this period reflect his peaceful temperament.

Then something happened. Muhammad fled Mecca and moved to Medina, where his political power rapidly increased. Soon he and his followers began raiding caravans to support the fledgling religion,[1] and, while Muhammad’s enemies multiplied, so did his followers. What followed can only be described as a reign of terror for those who refused to submit to Islam. Both men and women were slaughtered for writing satirical poems against Muhammad, and those who left the Islamic faith were exterminated. One woman was murdered in the dark for writing a poem against Muhammad; after she was slain, Muhammad declared that "Two goats won’t butt their heads about her."[2] Hundreds of Jews were beheaded (after surrendering) for standing against Muhammad, and their wives and children were sold into slavery.[3] A blind man who was reportedly more than a hundred years old had his head split open for saying that, if he could only see, he would throw a handful of dust at Muhammad.[4] When a man named Uqba was about to be killed by Muslims and showed concern for his family by asking, "But who will look after my children, O Muhammad?" Muhammad answered by telling the doomed man that Hell would take care of them.[5] (For more on Muhammad’s violent acts, see "Murdered By Muhammad.")

There are, of course, far more examples of violence than the ones listed here, but these should be sufficient to provide a picture of Muhammad’s idea of how Muslims should treat those who refuse to submit to Islam. Was Islam a religion of peace for the 600-900 Jewish men and boys whose heads were piled into trenches after they had surrendered? Was Islam a religion of peace for the woman who was stabbed to death in the midst of her five children? Was it a religion of peace for anyone who dared to speak out against Muhammad? No, it wasn’t. When Muhammad finally had a band of dedicated followers who would obey his violent commands without question, Islam was not a religion of peace.
Notice that we have approached this question regarding the nature of Islam using a basic historical analysis. Discussions about Islam typically revolve around certain verses in the Qur’an, but such discussions are often fruitless. The reason for this is that the Qur’an is very inconsistent in its approach towards unbelievers, due in large part to Muhammad’s own inconsistency. In conversations about Islam, a Muslim may argue that, according to the Qur’an, "There is no compulsion in religion" (2:256). A critic may reply with a very different passage:

Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection (9:29).
To this the Muslim replies, "Yes, it says to fight those who do not believe, but it is referring to unbelievers who attack Islam." Thus, according to many Muslims, Islam fights, but only in self-defense. So who’s right? The solution to the debate can be found in a historical examination of Islam. It is true that Muslims are only permitted to attack when threatened, but history shows what the early Muslims considered a threat. Anything other than complete submission to Islam was regarded as a threat to Islam, and so anything other than complete submission was met with extreme hostility. Even poetry and song lyrics, when used against Muhammad, were enough to warrant a sentence of death.[6]
Hence, the verses in the Qur’an that teach Muslims to live in peace should be examined within the historical context of Muhammad’s life, for it is this life that sheds light on an apparently ambiguous message. This historical context also sheds light on modern aspects of Islam, which ultimately derive from the life of its founder.
For instance, more than thirteen centuries ago, the relatively peaceful Muhammad fled Mecca because of intense persecution. As he fled the city, he left the path of peace farther and farther behind him. He eventually returned at the head of an army, and few were brave enough to oppose him. Islamic law was suddenly supreme, with a host of bloody tales to warn its enemies. A similar phenomenon occurs in the world today. When Muslims are in the minority (as they are in America) the message is always "Let us live in peace with one another, for Islam is a religion of tolerance and understanding." Then, once Islam has spread throughout the country, the message suddenly changes to "Anyone who stands against the Prophet is worthy of death!"
Oddly enough, this tactic has been remarkably successful for Islam. Despite more than a thousand years of bloodshed, many people are convinced that Muhammad was a gentle, humble man who never harmed anyone, and that Islam teaches its followers to be at peace with everyone who hasn’t declared war on them. Then, when someone like Osama bin Laden organizes a group of Muslims in an attack against thousands of innocent people, everyone says that he must be insane, and people around the world rush to defend Islam.
The result is simply amazing. Muslims commit acts of terror in Russia, Spain, America, England, Israel, and countless other countries around the world, and it actually causes certain people to support Islam even more! Think about it. A Muslim blows up a bus, but people don’t want other Muslims to be persecuted for it, so they start defending Islam. Legislators are among the most active in this regard. Laws threatening free speech about Islam are popping up everywhere (even in the United States and Great Britain[7]), declaring that statements against Islam will not be tolerated. Indeed, Australia is on the verge of sending pastors to prison for quoting passages of the Qur’an![8]
Today’s terrorist attacks in London, strangely enough, will help Islam grow even stronger. There will be a brief period of outrage against Islam, but once the smoke has cleared (both literally and figuratively), the world will once again rush to defend Islam, and more bills will be passed, "protecting" Muslims from those who would speak out against Muhammad’s "religion of peace." No matter how violent Islam becomes, as long as people fail to recognize that its two faces are part of the same head (and that both faces are calmly smiling as new laws make Islam untouchable), Muhammad’s empire of faith will thrive in a world of false tolerance.
Perhaps Osama bin Laden isn’t as crazy as everyone thinks, for his plan seems to be working perfectly. His attacks are strengthening Islam’s position in the world. In a curious way, bin Laden is more dedicated to true Islam than most Muslims are. If Muhammad told Muslims to fight in the name of God and demonstrated his meaning by killing men, women, and children for even minor resistance, what should a dedicated Muslim do? Should devout Muslims live in peace with the infidels around them, or should they follow Muhammad’s example by murdering the infidels in their beds?[9]
I’m very happy that most Muslims are willing to live in peace with their neighbors. Yet we have to be honest here. Benevolent Muslims aren’t peaceful because they are following the example set by Muhammad. They are peaceful because they’ve chosen to do what’s right, and because they are willing to live far better lives than Muhammad himself lived. In fact, many Muslims are such kind, peaceful, and gentle people that they seem to be following the example set by another great religious leader—one who died on the cross for the sins of the world and rose from the dead to prove his message. This man gave his listeners a sober warning: "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:15). And, may I add, we should also watch out for false religions, which come to us crying "Peace! Peace!" when they are built on a foundation of murder and bloodshed.


Qur’an quotations are taken from the M. H. Shakir Translation. The Bible quotation is from the New International Version.

1 According to Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad’s earliest biographer, Muhammad personally took part in 27 of these raids [Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, (The Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, tr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 659]. I highly recommend Ibn Ishaq’s work for anyone who is interested in early Islam.

2 Ibid., p. 676.
3 Ibid., p. 464: “Then they surrendered, and the apostle [Muhammad] confined them in Medina . . . Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still a market today) and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches. . . . There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900.”
4 Ibid., p. 372-373.
5 Ibid., p. 308.
6 Thus, if a Muslim were to kill me for writing this article, he would be in keeping with the teachings of Muhammad.
7 For examples of such laws, see “My Right to Offend a Fool” and “Controversial Hate Crimes Law Effective Jan. 1.”
9 For one example of Muslims killing a victim in bed, see Ibn Ishaq, p. 483: “His wife came out and asked who they were and they told her that they were Arabs in search of supplies. She told them that their man was here and that they could come in. When we entered we bolted the door of the room on her and ourselves fearing lest something should come between us and him. His wife shrieked and warned him of us, so we ran at him with our swords as he was on his bed.”

Islam Beheaded

Islam Beheaded

The Information Superhighway and the Death of Mohammedanism[1]

Heinrich Heine once wrote a clever poem titled "Marie Antoinette," in which the ghost of everyone’s favorite French queen entertains her guests with "strictest etiquette." The irony of the poem is that neither Antoinette nor her guests realize that their heads are missing. They were all beheaded during the French Revolution, but without their heads, they don’t have the brains to acknowledge their headlessness.

Islam is currently in a similar situation. Muhammad’s empire of faith has managed to thrive in the modern world for one simple reason: Muslims have kept Muhammad’s dark past a secret. Indeed, they have gone beyond keeping it a secret; they have somehow convinced themselves (and many others) that Muhammad was an outstanding moral example, perhaps even the greatest moral example of all time. Perpetuating this fraud has been, in my opinion, the most stupendous deception in world history.

True, there are plenty of instances in Muhammad’s life that one could view as the deeds of a moral individual, and Muslims are quick to point out his acts of charity and his dedication to prayer. However, in assessing the overall character of a man, we must take into account all of his actions, not just the ones that support our feelings about him. For instance, suppose I become convinced that the greatest person in history was a man named John Gacy. I could point to his charity work at local hospitals, to his activities in the Boy Scouts and the Jaycees[2], to his patient endurance of numerous physical ailments, to his community activities such as neighborhood barbecues and other social gatherings, to his generosity to others, to his dedication to his family, and to his outstanding work ethic, which made him one of the pillars of his local business community. Yet, if I am to make a case for the moral superiority of Mr. Gacy, I must not leave out the fact that he raped, tortured, and murdered more than thirty boys and buried them under his house.[3]

I bring this up because of the peculiar tactic employed by Muslims whenever the character of Muhammad is challenged. When someone argues that Muhammad was a robber or a murderer, Muslims suddenly cry out in one accord, "But he was merciful and kind! He started Islam, and Islam is good! God revealed the Qur’an through him! How dare you say something bad about him!? He was the greatest prophet ever! Stop being so intolerant!" The difficulty here is that, no matter how loudly a Muslim shouts these objections, they have no power to overcome the historical fact that Muhammad was a robber and a murderer. Yet, to a Muslim who already believes that Muhammad was a prophet, the Islamic line of reasoning apparently makes sense. Nevertheless, to anyone who is not a committed Muslim, any claim to moral superiority will be an empirical issue, that is, a matter of examining and weighing the evidence.
Tragically, examining the evidence is something that most Muslims seem unwilling to do. In fact, Muslims have been so persistent in ignoring the facts about their prophet that the Muhammad now proclaimed by Islam bears little resemblance to the man who preached in Arabia more than thirteen centuries ago. For example, Abul A’la Mawdudi presents the following picture of Muhammad:
He is entirely different from the people among whom he is born and with whom he spends his youth and early manhood. He never tells a lie. The whole nation is unanimous in testifying to his truthfulness. . . . He is the very embodiment of modesty in the midst of a society which is immodest to the core. . . . He helps the orphans and the widows. He is hospitable to travelers. He harms no one . . . [He] is such a lover of peace that his heart melts for the people when they take up arms and cut each other’s throats. . . . In brief, the towering and radiant personality of this man, in the midst of such a corrupted and dark environment, may be likened to a beacon-light brightening a pitch-dark night or to a diamond in a heap of dead stones. . . . [After he begins to deliver the message of Islam the] ignorant nation turns against him. Abuses and stones are showered at his august person. Every conceivable torture and cruelty is perpetrated upon him. . . . Can anyone ever imagine a higher example of self-sacrifice, brotherliness and kind-heartedness towards his fellow beings than that a man would ruin his happiness for the good of others, while those very people for whose betterment he is striving should stone him, abuse him, banish him, and give him no quarter even in his exile, and that, in spite of this all, he should refuse to stop working for their well being? . . . When he began preaching his Message, all of Arabia stood in awe and wonder and was bewitched by his wonderful eloquence and oratory. It was so impressive and captivating that his worst enemies were afraid of hearing it, lest it should penetrate deep into the recesses of their hearts and carry them off their feet making them forsake their old religion and culture. It was so matchless that the whole legion of Arab poets, preachers, and speakers of the highest caliber failed to bring forth its equivalent. . . . This reserved and quiet man who, for a full forty years, never gave any indication of political interest or activity, suddenly appeared on the stage of the world as such a great political reformer and statesman that without the aid of radio, telephone and press, he brought together the scattered inhabitants of a desert extending across twelve hundred thousand square miles. He joined together a people who were warlike, ignorant, unruly, uncultured, and plunged in self-destructive trivial warfare—under one banner, one law, one religion, one culture, one civilization, and one form of government. . . . He accomplished this feat not through any lure, oppression or cruelty, but by his captivating manner, his winsome personality, and the conviction of his teaching. With his noble and gentle behavior, he befriended even his enemies. He captured the hearts of the people with his boundless sympathy and human kindness. . . . He did not oppress even his deadly enemies, men who had sworn to kill him . . . He forgave them all when he triumphed over them. He never took revenge on anyone for his personal grievances. He never retaliated against anyone for the wrongs perpetrated on him. . . . It was he who turned the course of human thought away from superstition, the unnatural and the unexplainable, towards a logical approach illustrating a love for truth and a balanced worldly life. . . . In the cavalcade of world history, the sublime figure of this wonderful person towers so high above all the great men of all times that they appear to be dwarfs when contrasted to him. . . . Can anyone cite another example of a maker of history of such distinction, another revolutionary of such brilliance and splendor?[4]
This is actually a very condensed version of Mawdudi’s reverent depiction of his beloved prophet, but it accurately reflects the Islamic conception of Muhammad. The problem, of course, is that this conception is horribly inaccurate. Thehistorical Muhammad (that is, the Muhammad we can know about through history) was psychologically unstable, brutal towards his enemies, and, according to some, sexually perverted. This isn’t to say that Muhammad was all bad. He wasn’t, and Mawdudi is correct in maintaining that Muhammad’s character played a role in converting people to Islam. Even so, while Muhammad may have had many redeeming features, some of his less admirable characteristics are difficult to ignore. Consider the following facts about the life of Muhammad, which can be gathered from the reports of his earliest followers:

Fact #1: When Muhammad began receiving his revelations, his first impression was that he was possessed by demons. The "angel" who appeared to Muhammad choked him almost to the point of death. Muhammad concluded that he was demon-possessed and quickly became suicidal.[5] This wasn’t the first time a person thought that Muhammad was under demonic influence, however. Ibn Ishaq tells us that Muhammad’s childhood nurse also believed that he was demon-possessed.[6] Thus, both the woman who raised him and Muhammad himself held (if only for a short time) that he was possessed by demons. Further, throughout his life, Muhammad believed that he was the victim of magic spells cast by his enemies, who were somehow able to torment God’s chosen prophet through their incantations:
Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: Magic was worked on Allah’s Apostle (may the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) so that he used to think that he had had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not. Then one day he said, "O Aisha, do you know that Allah has instructed me concerning the matter I asked Him about? Two men came to me and one of them sat near my head and the other sat near my feet. The one near my head asked the other: ‘What is wrong with this man?’ The latter replied, ‘He is under the effect of magic.’ The first one asked, ‘Who has worked magic on him?’ The other replied, ‘Labid bin Al-Asam, a man from Bani Zuraiq who was an ally of the Jews and was a hypocrite.’ The first one asked, ‘What material did he use?’ The other replied, ‘A comb and the hair stuck to it.’"[7]
(For more on Muhammad, magic, and demons, see "The Bewitched Prophet.")

Fact #2: Muhammad supported his fledgling religion by robbing people. The early Muslims could have maintained Islam through hard work, frugal spending, and the donations of admirers. Yet Muhammad chose robbery as his chief source of income, and greed soon became one of the primary factors in people’s rapid conversion to Islam. Indeed, Muhammad deliberately used the spoils of war to lure people to Islam. When he was criticized for the way he distributed his newfound wealth, he replied, "Are you disturbed in mind because of the good things of this life by which I win over a people that they may become Muslims while I entrust you to your Islam?"[8] Given the prospect of untold riches, it’s no wonder so many people committed themselves to Islam. Muhammad guaranteed that Allah "will admit the Struggler in His cause into Paradise if he is killed, otherwise He will return him to his home safely with rewards and war booty."[9] This message must have sounded extraordinary to the poor of Arabia. If they died in the cause of Allah, they would go to Paradise and be rich. If they survived, they would plunder their enemies and be rich. Either way, their situation would be much better upon embracing Islam.
(For more on Muhammad’s use of riches to win converts, see "Don’t Lose Your Head!")

Fact #3: Muhammad was often ruthless towards his adversaries. Punishments for taking a stand against Muhammad included torture and death. Both men and women were brutally killed for criticizing Muhammad.[10] Hundreds of Jewish men were beheaded for standing against him, while their wives and children were sold into slavery.[11] Some early Muslims who apostatized were killed after Muhammad gave the command to kill all who turn away from Islam.[12] Modern Muslims often claim that Muhammad only killed when he was attacked by his enemies, but history shows that he murdered numerous people whose only crime was writing poems against him.[13] Given the facts, it’s difficult to understand how Muslim writers such as Mawdudi could have the audacity to claim that Muhammad "never took revenge on anyone for his personal grievances."
(For more on Muhammad’s brutality, see "Murdered by Muhammad.")

Fact #4: Muhammad had far more wives than even his own revelations allowed. The Qur’an allows Muslims to have up to four wives: "And if you fear that you will not deal fairly with the orphans, marry women of your choice, two or three or four; but if you fear that you cannot deal justly (with so many), then one only, or (the captives) that your right hands possess" (4:3). We know that Muhammad had at least thirteen wives during his life, and that he had at least nine wives at one time. Of course, he did receive a Qur’anic revelation telling him that he alone could exceed the four-wife limit: "O Prophet! We have made lawful unto you your wives whom you have paid their dowries, and those whom your right hand possesses of those whom Allah has given as spoils of war, . . . a privilege for you only, not for the (rest of) believers" (33:50). Nevertheless, since Muhammad was the one receiving revelations that allowed him to transgress rules that applied to everyone else, many people have concluded that he was inventing revelations to justify his hypocritical behavior.
(For more on Muhammad’s wives, see "Why Did Mohammed Get So Many Wives?")

Fact #5: Muhammad consummated a marriage to a nine-year-old girl. Muhammad’s courtship of Aisha began when she was only six.[14] Muhammad had a dream about her, which led him to believe that God wanted him to marry the young girl.[15] Fortunately, Muhammad didn’t have sex with her until she reached menses at the age of nine. (Most girls do not have their first period by this age, but Aisha had been suffering from some form of intense sickness, which probably induced menses early.) Muhammad apparently took Aisha’s first menstruation as a sign that she was an adult ready for sexual relations, and Aisha quickly became his favorite wife. Among her earliest duties as Muhammad’s wife was the task of washing semen stains off his clothes: "Aisha (may Allah be pleased with her) narrated: I used to wash the semen off the clothes of the Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) and even then I used to notice one or more spots on them."[16]
(For more on Muhammad’s relationship with Aisha, see "Was Muhammad a Pedophile?")

Fact #6: Muhammad had a contemptible opinion of women. Muslim apologists often argue that Muhammad raised the status of women, and they are entirely correct in saying this. However, the status to which he raised them is almost as shameful as their status in pre-Islamic Arabia. According to Muhammad, women’s minds are so deficient that the testimony of a woman is worth only half that of a man.[17] Given this lack of intellectual ability, women have to be kept under control by other means. Thus the Qur’an sanctions the beating of women: "As for those [women] from whom you fear disloyalty, admonish them and banish them to beds apart, and beat them (lightly, without visible injury). Then if they obey you, seek not a way against them" (4:34). Notice the parenthetical remarks that the beating should be a light one. These words do not occur in the Arabic; apparently, even Muslim translators have a problem with this verse and do what they can to water it down. Notice also that the beating is done to bring the wives into submission. Muhammad repeatedly warned women about disrespecting their husbands: "The Prophet (the blessing and peace of Allah be upon him) said: ‘I was shown the Hell-fire and that the majority of its dwellers were women who were thankless.’"[18] Hell, then, is composed primarily of ungrateful women (perhaps their husbands hadn’t beaten them enough). However, even Heaven is a bleak prospect for women, for, according to Muhammad, women will spend eternity standing in the corners of Paradise, waiting for the men to come and have sex with them.[19]
(For more on Muhammad’s opinion of women, see "Banish Them to Their Beds and Scourge Them!")

Fact #7: Muhammad is unique among prophets in that he is the only one to receive a revelation, proclaim it as part of God’s message to man, and later take it back, claiming that it was actually from Satan. According to the earliest extant biography of Muhammad, he eventually became so sad about his countrymen’s rejection of his prophethood that he began longing for some verses that would bring them to Islam. He soon received what he was looking for—a revelation saying that the intercession of three other gods was acceptable. Muhammad presented the revelation to the people, and his countrymen were overjoyed to hear that they could continue praying to al-Lat, al-Uzza, and Manat. A mass-conversion to Islam followed, but in time Muhammad received another revelation, which told him that the former verses had been given to him by Satan. God told him not to be too disturbed over the matter, for, according to the new revelation, all prophets occasionally receive ideas from Satan:
The apostle was bitterly grieved and was greatly in fear of God. So God sent down (a revelation), for He was merciful to him, comforting him and making light of the affair and telling him that every prophet and apostle before him desired as he desired and wanted what he wanted and Satan interjected something into his desires as he had on his tongue. So God annulled what Satan had suggested and God established His verses, i.e. you are just like the prophets and apostles. Then God sent down: "We have not sent a prophet or apostle before you but when he longed Satan cast suggestions in his longing. But God will annul what Satan has suggested. Then God will establish his verses, God being knowing and wise."[20]
(For more on this, see "The Bewitched Prophet.")

These are just some of the facts that Muslims have been keeping secret, but they are enough to make any reasonable person doubt the validity of Islam. Muhammad was guilty of countless murders and of torturing his victims. He robbed caravans and participated in the slave-trade. His persecution of the Jews bordered on genocide. His polygamy went beyond that which even his own revelations permitted (though he did receive a revelation saying that this was okay for him). One of his wives was a nine-year-old girl, whose earliest duties in Muhammad’s house included the constant task of washing the semen stains off his clothes. At times he believed he was demon-possessed or under the effect of magic. He was known to be suicidal. He admittedly received a message from Satan and delivered it to the people as if it were from God. He declared that women have half the intellectual ability that men have, that it is okay for men to beat their wives, that most of the inhabitants of hell are women, and that, even if a woman somehow makes it to heaven, her eternity will consist of standing in a corner, waiting for men to sexually enjoy her.[21]

These details about Muhammad raise a very important question: What does a prophet have to do before Muslims will be willing to question whether he is truly the greatest moral example in history? Normally, when we say that someone is a moral person, we mean that he doesn’t commit acts such as robbery and murder. Yet Muhammad did all these things and much more. It appears, then, that Muslims are using the term "moral" in a very unique way. In this uniquely Muslim sense of the term, the word "moral" is defined as "whatever Muhammad does." Thus, if Muhammad were to chop off the heads of hundreds of people (which he did), this act would still be defined as a moral act, since Muhammad did it, and anything Muhammad does is, by definition, moral.
But this raises another important question. If God’s greatest prophet is free to take part in murder, robbery, genocide, and slave-trading, can we really point a finger at people like Osama bin Laden and Saddam Hussein and say that they are evil? They killed many innocents, but so did Muhammad. Saddam tortured countless people, but so did Muhammad. In fact, one could make a case that Osama bin Laden is morally superior to Muhammad, for, while bin Laden killed thousands of people, he didn’t sell their wives and children into slavery, or have sex with a little girl, or marry more than a dozen women.
The truth about Muhammad has been one of the world’s best-kept secrets. For centuries, it has been virtually impossible to raise objections about the character of Muhammad in Muslim countries, for anyone who raised such objections would (following the example set by Muhammad himself) immediately be killed. Outside the Muslim world, there has been little interest in Islam, and those who have been interested have typically relied on modern Muslim reports about Muhammad, such as the above passage from Mawdudi. But things have changed. Now many people are interested in Islam, and Muslims aren’t able to silence everyone. Moreover, with the advent of the Internet, it is now impossible to keep Muhammad’s life a secret. The facts about the founder of Islam are spreading very rapidly, and Muslims are frantically scurrying to defend their faith. But the information superhighway is paving over the ignorance that has for centuries been the stronghold of Islamic dogma. In the end, Islam will fall, for the entire structure is built upon the belief that Muhammad was the greatest moral example in history, and this belief is demonstrably false. 


On sources used. I have appealed to several sources for early information about the life of Muhammad. The Life of Muhammad (Ibn Ishaq) is the earliest biography of Muhammad. The Sahih Muslim and the Sahih Al-Bukhari are considered by most Muslims to be the most reliable sources of information about the life of Muhammad. All Qur’an verses are from The Glorious Qur’an translation.
1 Muslims object to having their religion called "Mohammedanism"; however, by "Mohammedanism" I mean only the Islamic beliefs about Muhammad. Thus, the term is appropriate in this context.
2 "The Jaycees" is an organization that helps young people develop various skills for success, in areas such as business development, leadership, and management. The organization places much emphasis on community service.
3 Before anyone misunderstands me here, I must note that I am not comparing Muhammad to John Wayne Gacy. My point is that, if I claim that someone is the greatest moral example ever, I cannot ignore all the details that prove me wrong. If a husband cheats on his wife on Saturday evenings but remains faithful to her the rest of the week, no one would claim that he is an excellent husband because he is faithful to his wife most of the time. A Saturday evening adulterer is still an adulterer. Similarly, when Muslims claim that Muhammad was the greatest of prophets, they cannot simply select the facts that support their view.
4 Abul A’la Mawdudi, Towards Understanding Islam (Islamic Circle of North America, 1986), pp. 52-67.
5 Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, (The Life of Muhammad), A. Guillaume, tr. (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), p. 106.
6 Ibid., pp. 71-72.
7 Sahih Al Bukhari, Dr. Muhammad Matraji, tr. (New Delhi: Islamic Book Service, 2002), Number 5765.
8 Ibn Ishaq, p. 596.
9 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 2787.
10 See, for instance, Ibn Ishaq p. 368 and p. 676.
11 See Ibid., p. 464.
12 See Ibid., pp. 550-551. See also Sahih Al-Bukhari 3017: "[T]he Prophet said: ‘If somebody discards his religion, kill him.’"
13 See, for example, Ibn Ishaq, pp. 675-676, where Asma is murdered in her house for writing a poem against Muhammad. In Ibid., pp. 364-368, Ka’b is murdered for writing poems against Islam. Ibid., pp. 550-551, states that Muhammad gave orders to kill (1) al-Hawayrith for insulting him, (2) a woman named Sara who had once insulted him, and (3) Abdullah’s two singing girls for singing songs about Muhammad. One of the singing girls survived and was given immunity; the others were killed in obedience to Muhammad’s commands.
14 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 3894.
15 Ibid., Number 3895.
16 Ibid., Number 232. See also 229, 230, and 231.
17 See Sahih Muslim, Abdul Hamid Siddiqi, tr., Number 142.
18 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 29.
19 Ibid., Number 4879.
20 Ibn Ishaq, pp. 165-166.
21 Sahih Al-Bukhari, Number 4879.