Sunday, February 5, 2012

The Life of Muhammad

By Klingschor


The religion of Islam is based upon of the teachings and traditions of Muhammad ibn ‘Abd al-Lah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib, a 7th Century Arabian merchant who believed himself to be the final Messenger of God (Rasul’Llah) and the natural successor to Abraham, Moses and Jesus. Preaching his message of strict Monotheism, Muhammad experienced varying degrees of success and defeat during his prophetic career, from oppression and ridicule to the conquest of his enemies. What follows is a cursive, naturalistic and critical account of his life and prophetic endeavours.

570 – Muhammad’s Birth

Muhammad (whose name in Arabic means ‘praiseworthy’)[1] was born in the year 570 CE in Mak’ah, a small mountain town in the high desert plateau of the Hijaz Coast of western Arabia. He was the only son of ‘Abd al-Lah ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib and ‘Amina bint Wahb, but the former died shortly before Muhammad’s birth.[2] Muhammad was raised by a wet nurse named Halima al-Sa‘diyya, to whom he was entrusted at an early age by his mother ‘Amina who was acting in accordance with Mak’an tradition. Muhammad grew up in the hill country, learning their dialect of Arabic, Qurayshi.[3]

575 – Muhammad the Orphan

When Muhammad was five or six years old, his mother took him to the oasis town of Yathrib (located a few hundred miles to the north of Mak’a) to stay with his relatives and visit his father’s grave. ‘Amina fell ill and died on the return journey, however, and Halima the Nurse proceeded back to Mak’a and placed Muhammad under the care of his paternal grandfather, ‘Abd al-Muttalib ibn Hashim.[4]

Al-Muttalib was famous for his visions (which had allegedly revealed to him the location of a magical lost well associated with the Biblical Prophet Ishmael)[5] and was involved in Mak’a’s pilgrimage business – he looked after the Ka‘ba (a sacred site in Mak’a) and provided provisions for the pilgrims who frequented said holy locale.[6]

Al-Muttalib was an important and respected man in Mak’a, and taught Muhammad much of what he knew, including his religious knowledge – Al-Muttalib was a Hanifi.[7] The Hunafa’ were a sect of Arab Monotheists who revered prophets such as Abraham, Moses and Jesus, distained overt materialism, engaged in solitary meditation in the desert and mountain wilderness,[8] prayed towards the Ka‘ba, performed the Pilgrimage to the Ka‘ba, and even in some circumstances performed ritual ablutions and abstained from wine-consumption.[9] The Hunafa’ were aware of the complexity and sophistication of the greater monotheistic religions that surrounded Arabia (namely Christianity, Judaism and Zoroastrianism), and contemplated the need for a local faith or revelation keyed for the Arabs[10] – in a way, they seem to have paved the path for Muhammad’s coming.

578 – Muhammad in the care of his Uncle

Muhammad’s grandfather (Al-Muttalib) died in 578 CE, whereupon Muhammad (at the age of eight) was passed into the custody of his uncle ‘Imran ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (the son of Muhammad’s grandfather), a well-respected merchant and a leader of the Hashim Clan (a subset of the Quraysh Tribe, who dominated Mak’ah at this time). Muhammad grew up under the care of ‘Imran and worked as a shepherd to help pay his keep.[11]

580-594 – Muhammad’s Teenage Years

During his teenage years Muhammad sometimes travelled with ‘Imran on mercantile ventures, accompanying caravans to trade centres around Arabia and even as far as Syria.[12] Muhammad gained a virtuous reputation amongst his travelling companions and soon received the nick-name of al-Amin (‘The Trustworthy’).[13]

594 – Muhammad & Khadija

During his early twenties, Muhammad entered into the service of a wealthy Mak’an merchant and widow by the name of Khadija bint Khuwaylid ibn Asad, his distant cousin. Khadija solicited his services for a number of business endeavours after hearing of his excellent reputation, and once he had proved his worth, she hired him to oversee her business transactions. Khadija was so taken by Muhammad’s successful business management and sound character that she proposed to him (despite their age differences, she being substantially older), and they were married at about 595 CE. Muhammad continued to manage Khadija’s business affairs, and over the next few years their happy union produced six children, two of whom died at a young age. The remainder (four girls) survived ‘til adulthood.[14]

610 – The Revelation

As a monotheist, Muhammad was opposed to and disturbed by the idolatry of his fellow Mak’ans (most of whom were polytheists). To sooth his mind, he would engage in the customary Hunafa’ rituals of communicating with God by wandering in the desert and meditating in mountain caves. During one such episode, when Muhammad was praying in the Cave of Hira on the so-called Jabal al-Nur (‘Mountain of Light’), a praeternatural force suddenly manifested and demanded that Muhammad read. When Muhammad replied that he could not, the praeternatural force physically assaulted him and dictated to him sacred poetry. Muhammad fled from the cave, but as he was returning home, he heard a voice above and looked up to see an angel filling the sky. This strange vision again sent Muhammad into a panic and he ran home to be comforted by his wife Khadija, who soothed his angst and took him to see her elderly cousin Waraqa ibn Nawfal ibn Asad. Waraqa was a monotheist, and when he heard of Muhammad’s experience he decided that the praeternatural force must have been the angel Jibra’il, and the sacred poetry a message from God. Waraqa died a few days later and Muhammad experienced a brief lull from the visions, but Jibra’il soon returned with more dictations from God. After nearly attempting suicide on several occasions, Muhammad became accustomed to his visions and revelations, accepted what the præternatural voices (and his wife) were telling him and assumed the role of a Messenger of God.[15][16]

But far from being a blessing, the Revelations that Jibra’il’s divine dictations precipitated were by no means blissful or joyful experiences, and bore a startling resemblance to the symptoms of some kind of insidious mental illness – from visions of floating angels and rogue jinn to idle conversations with Jibra’il about the particulars of ritual, the nature of the revelations varied: Sometimes they were heralded by a strange humming sound in Muhammad’s ears, or a sound similar to the ringing of a bell; often they would induce incredible pain, and Muhammad would perspire heavily even on the coldest of days; he would see visions of praeternatural beings, or hear a great cacophony like the sound of metal being beaten that produced an agony so great that he wished to die; his face would become crimson, his shoulder and neck muscles would twitch and tremble uncontrollably, his body would spasm, his heart would beat wildly, his breathing would become ragged and he would pass out.[17][18][19]

Thusly, Muhammad’s prophetic career began with visual and auditory hallucinations accompanied by bodily spasms and dysfunctions, which culminated in the production of inspired poetry. The verses in question were produced in a certain style of Arabic prose known as saj‘, characteristic for its rhyming strophes of short metrical units, disjointed staccato phrases and breathless, ecstatic cadences. These verses would later become known as the ‘Recitation’, or Qur’an.[20]

Despite the gruelling nature of his early revelations, Muhammad was always comforted by his loving wife Khadija, who reassured him and had total faith in his ascendency as a Messenger of God: She was the first Believer.[21]

613 – Muhammad goes Public

Bolstered by Khadija’s faith in him and prompted by God, Muhammad gained confidence in his role as a Messenger and in 613 CE he began to proselytize his message to the people of his tribe, the Quraysh. He chastised them for their polytheism, telling anyone who would listen that only pure monotheism would lead to paradise, whilst idolatry would lead to hell.[22]

Muhammad’s first followers consisted mostly of his close friends and family, most notably his cousin ‘Ali ibn ‘Imran (who later married Muhammad’s youngest daughter Fatima), his adopted son Zayd ibn Haritha, and his best friend ‘Abd al-Lah ibn ‘Uthman (better known as ‘Abu Bakr’). Aside from such intimates, the majority of the early Believers consisted of freed slaves and individuals from lower socio-economic backgrounds, as well as rebellious individuals utilizing Muhammad’s cult as a reaction to the Mak’an establishment.[23]

Most of Muhammad’s tribe scorned his declarations, however, taking offense to his assertion that the unrepentant polytheistic populace of Mak’a were damned to eternal hellfire by dint of their idolatry; the Messenger was despised and ridiculed for this, and as a result the early Believers became ostracized and relegated to the fringes of society.[24]

Muhammad was distressed by the disinterest and contempt that the Quraysh expressed towards his message, so to mollify his hostile audience he acknowledged the existence of three Arabian goddesses held sacred by the Mak’ans. This revelation was met with widespread approval from the Quraysh, but Muhammad was riddled with doubt; unable to reconcile this new message of polytheism with the old message of monotheism, Muhammad’s angst drove him to renounce polytheism once again and return to his original message. The pagan verses were declared to be the work of Shaytan, abrogated by a new revelation from Jibra’il, produced to reinstate pure monotheism. This denunciation of the pagan goddesses held sacred in Mak’a earned Muhammad the permanent enmity of the Quraysh.[25]

The first violent conflict between the Believers and the unbelievers occurred during this period, when a group of Believers praying outside of Mak’a were interrupted by a passing band of polytheists. An argument followed, and in the ensuing row one of the Believers assaulted a polytheist with a camel bone, injuring him.[26]

Times were grim for the followers of Muhammad during these early years: Although ‘Imran’s powerful position as a leader of the Hashim Clan kept Muhammad and his followers relatively safe from harm, they still endured constant ridicule, derision, and in some cases physical assault.[27] This unhappy state of affairs continued for a decade and in 615 CE, a delegation of Believers fled from the harsh settings of Mak’a and immigrated to Abyssinia, where they were given sanctuary.[28] Muhammad stayed on in the city of his birth, however, enduring continued oppression – in order to rid themselves of the blight Muhammad was putting on their city, the Quraysh tribe placed a boycott upon two of their member-clans, Clan Hashim and Clan al-Muttalib, who (under the auspices of ‘Imran) had refused to depose of the Messenger. Despite the pressures of the Quraysh, however, Muhammad defiantly continued to preach his message and publicise his revelations, impugning his polytheistic opposition as wicked and corrupt.[29] The boycott was eventually lifted when some of the Quraysh took pity on the suffering clans,[30] but the opposition to Muhammad and his followers continued for many more years, and in 619 CE he experienced the death of his wife Khadija; his uncle and protector ‘Imran also died that year, leaving Muhammad vulnerable and bereft.[31]

619 – ‘Abu Lahab’ ‘Abd al-‘Uzza

Upon the death of ‘Imran, another of Muhammad’s uncles ‘Abd al-‘Uzza ibn ‘Abd al-Muttalib (better known as ‘Abu Lahab’) became the leader of the Hashim Clan, a man who was hostile towards the Messenger and his message and withdrew the protection that ‘Imran had previously maintained – Muhammad and his followers were now at the mercy of the Quraysh.[32]‘Abd al-‘Uzza’s hostility derived from early in Muhammad’s prophetic career, when the Messenger had sounded the town alarm and gathered all of the Hashimis and al-Muttalibs on a nearby mountaintop. Expecting an emergency, his family discovered to their indignation that Muhammad simply wished to warn them of the hellfire that awaited unrepentant polytheists, and none was more outraged than ‘Abd al-‘Uzza.[33][34]

622 – The Hijra

As conditions in Mak’a worsened and the followers of Muhammad faced more and more persecution, the Messenger sought protection in the nearby town of al-Ta’if, where he was ill-received and found no solace.[35] In the town of Yathrib to the north, however, Muhammad was beginning to gain a following, and soon the oasis-settlement became a haven for his oppressed followers in Mak’a. Muhammad ordered all of the Mak’an Believers to immigrate to Yathrib, and once they had done so, he himself fled from the city of his birth, warned by the angel Jibra’il of an imminent plot to take his life. This event became known as the Migration, or Hijra.[36]

The town of Yathrib was an oasis-settlement populated by three Jewish tribes and two Arab tribes embroiled in a constant civil war, as the latter fought each other for supremacy. The Arab Aws Tribe on the one hand was supported by the Jewish Nadir and Qurayza tribes, whilst the Arab Khazraj tribe was backed by the Jewish Qaynuqa‘ Tribe. At this time when the need for an impartial arbiter was most pressing, Muhammad’s following in Yathrib were espousing the virtues of the Messenger, and so it was decided that Muhammad should be invited to settle the Aws-Khazraj dispute. So it was that Muhammad sent his followers to live in Yathrib, and joined them shortly thereafter to become the chief magistrate of the town. The native Arabs of Yathrib who supported Muhammad became known as the Ansar (‘Helpers’), whilst the Believers from Mak’a became known as the Muhajirun(‘Emigrants’).[37]

Upon his arrival into Yathrib, Muhammad drew up a charter between the various warring Arab and Jewish factions and the new immigrants from Mak’a, declaring them all to be a united ‘umma (‘community’). The different components of the ‘umma were obliged to help and support each other in the face of external aggression, whilst simultaneously suppressing internal dissent and obeying Muhammad’s commands.[38]

Muhammad gained many new converts amongst the Arab tribes of Yathrib, but was coldly received by the Jews; they rejected his claims to Prophethood, and were highly critical of his theology. At first Muhammad tried to win over the Jews by incorporating certain Jewish rituals and customs into his cult, but to no avail: Of all Muhammad’s critics, none were more pernicious than the Jews, whose knowledge of Scripture enabled them to deconstruct the Messenger’s nascent religion and expose the numerous mistakes therein.* In response to this theological assault, Muhammad began to produce revelations accusing the Jews of plotting against him, corrupting their scriptures and murdering their Prophets; from hereon out, Muhammad viewed the Jews of Yathrib as an insidious threat to the unity of the ‘umma, undermining his formative theocracy from within.[39]

Muhammad’s other opponents of note were those Arabs who accepted his role as a Messenger of God but disagreed with his politics; these Believers were given the epithet of Munafiqin (‘Hypocrites’), and were accused in Muhammad’s revelations of secretly retaining their polytheism and plotting against him.[40]

Following the death of his first wife, Muhammad had remarried in Mak’a before the Hijra (taking a Believing widow named Sauda bint Zama‘a as his wife),[41] but after his migration to Yathrib, he sought a second bride: ‘A’ysha bint ‘Abd al-Lah, the daughter of Muhammad’s closest companion. Following Khadija’s death, Muhammad had approached ‘Abd al-Lah for his daughter’s hand in marriage, claiming that he been promised her in a dream-vision from Jibra’il.[42] ‘A’ysha was only a child six years of age at the time, and ‘Abd al-Lah was hesitant to wed her to the Messenger (given that he viewed it as incest),[43] but the marriage was postponed in any case when ‘A’ysha became ill; it wasn’t until several months after the Hijra that a dowry was established, and the marriage commenced.[44] ‘A’ysha was still a young girl only nine years of age when the consummation occurred, and she became Muhammad’s second living wife.[45][46][47][48]

623 – The Raids

Muhammad’s transition from Mak’a to Yathrib coincided with a shift in his psyche and politics; before the Hijra he had preached non-violence and forgiveness towards the transgressions of the Quraysh, but his ascent to power in Yathrib resulted in a new God-given policy of retribution.[49] Muhammad and the Muhajirun immigrants from Mak’a were initially short of funds and financially dependent on the Ansar Helpers of Yathrib, so to remedy this situation, the Messenger began to send the Muhajirun on raiding parties against Qurayshi trading caravans.[50] Sanctioned by the divine decree to seek revenge on the polytheists, Muhammad’s followers launched several attacks on Mak’an merchants, without any initial success.[51] The first triumphant foray was the Nakhla Raid in 624 CE when the Believers attacked a Mak’an Caravan during the Month of Rajab, held sacred by all Arabs. No blood was to be shed during Rajab and even Muhammad’s followers in Yathrib were outraged by this gross breach of etiquette when news of the raid spread. Fortunately for Muhammad, a timely revelation from Jibra’il excused this travesty and blamed the Mak’ans.[52]

624 – The Battle of Badr

Soon after the Nakhla Raid, Muhammad gained word of a Qurayshi caravan returning from Syria laden with wealth bound for Mak’a, and dispatched a large party of Believers to intercept the merchants. The majority of the Messenger’s followers at this time were the Ansar; unlike the Muhajirun (who had followed Muhammad for his egalitarian preachments in Mak’a), theAnsar were motivated by his promise of booty and the spoils of war.[53]

Muhammad himself led the raid against the merchants, but the Qurayshi caravan gained word of his approach and managed to avoid the aggressors. The Mak’ans marshalled a large army in response and sent out their forces to crush Muhammad for good, but this time the Messenger was forewarned and made ready for the assault; Muhammad and his forces laid an ambush at the watering-place of Badr, destroying all the wells but their own and taking the superior ground. When the army from Mak’a arrived, they had to contend with thirst and the rising sun to the east in their eyes, as well decentralized command; unlike the raiding party from Yathrib (which operated under the strict command of the Messenger) the Quraysh fought as individual clans, thus putting them at a further disadvantage. The battle commenced in short order and lasted only a few hours, the duration of which was spent by Muhammad in a nearby hut. He prayed for victory and emerged only to reveal a revelation exhorting his followers to martyrdom, spurring them on with promises of paradise after death.[54]

Despite being outnumbered, the Believers played to their advantages and were victorious in the end, routing the Quraysh and sending them fleeing back to Mak’a.[55] The followers of Muhammad plundered the bodies of their foes, resulting in disputes over the division of spoils, so to remedy the situation Muhammad produced a revelation ordering him to divide the booty amongst the Believers.[56]

The bodies of the slain Quraysh were thrown into a pit,[57] whilst the captives were taken back to Yathrib; one of Muhammad’s companions advocated killing them all, but the Messenger ransomed them instead and produced another revelation to settle the matter.[58] Two of the prisoners were not spared, however; the first was a young poet named al-Nadr ibn al-Harith ibn Kalada who had mocked the Messenger in Mak’a. Al-Nadr had accused Muhammad of plagiarising his revelations from pre-existing stories, and even recited his own verses to rival those of the Messenger; for this blasphemy, he was beheaded by Muhammad’s cousin ‘Ali, at the behest of the Messenger.[59]

The other captive to be executed was ‘Uqba ibn Abu Mu‘ayt, who had harassed Muhammad in Mak’a. When he pleaded for his life and asked what would become of his children, Muhammad replied that they were destined for hell, and ordered ‘Uqba to be executed.[60]

624 – The Assassinations

Following their defeat at the Battle of Badr at the hands of Muhammad, the clans of Mak’a vowed to avenge the deaths of their compatriots, and soon afterwards the Quryashi leader Sakr ibn Harb (better known as ‘Abu Sufyan’) led a raid on Yathrib. The raiders burned some palm trees and killed two men working in fields, but when Muhammad pursued the Quraysh his efforts were in vain, and the raiders eluded him.[61]

Despite this minor mishap, the victory at Badr had emboldened Muhammad and the Messenger began to conduct raids against other tribes in the Hijaz and beyond,[62] whilst simultaneous consolidating his power in Yathrib. As Muhammad’s power and influence increased, so too did his intolerance towards criticism, a policy precipitated by the execution of the poet al-Nadr. One of the first victims of Muhammad’s new mentality in Yathrib was the Jewish poet Ka‘b ibn al-Ashraf of the Nadir Tribe, who was dismayed to hear of the death of two Qurayshi noblemen in the Battle of Badr and travelled to Mak’a to grieve; Ka‘b composed poems despairing at the desecration and ill-treatment inflicted by Muhammad on the bodies of the dead Quraysh following the Battle of Badr, and mourned the death of their slaughtered heroes. After paying these respects, Ka‘b travelled back to Yathrib and began composing lewd poetry about Believing women, an affront that Muhammad could not bear; the Messenger requested that his followers murder Ka‘b, and even went so far as to command them to lie to achieve this end. Following Muhammad’s command, a party of Believers travelled to Ka‘b’s nearby abode at night and tricked him into lowering his guard, whereupon he was stabbed to death.[63]

Another notable poet who fell victim to Muhammad’s wrath was Abu ‘Afak, an elderly pagan who composed a rhyme deploring the Arabs of Yathrib for submitting to the petty whims of the Messenger; for this infraction, Muhammad had the old man assassinated.[64] This sparked outraged from another poet named ‘Asma’ bint Marwan, a pagan woman who condemned her Arab compatriots for following the Messenger and urged them to depose of him. At the request of Muhammad, a Believer stole into her house and stabbed the poetess to death as she lay sleeping with her children, an act that was lauded by the Messenger.[65]

624 – The Qaynuqa‘ Affair

Muhammad didn’t just limit the scope of his wrath to individual critics; following his victory at the Battle of Badr, the Messenger entered into the quarters of the Qaynuqa‘ Tribe in Yathrib and assembled all of the Jews therein, whereupon he publically presented his most hated foes with an ultimatum: Unless they converted to his cult, the Jews would suffer the same fate as the Quraysh. The Qaynuqa‘ Jews sneered at this declaration and dismissed Muhammad’s threat, but the Messenger soon made good on his promise and attacked the Qaynuqa‘ Tribe. The catalyst for this aggression occurred in the Qaynuqa‘ marketplace, when some Jewish tradesmen played a prank on a Believing woman that resulted in her accidently revealing her genitalia; a passing Believer who witnessed the escapade promptly killed the Jew responsible, and was in turn mobbed to death in vengeance by nearby Jews. The family of the slain Believer called upon their coreligionists for revenge against the Jews, and Muhammad—capitalizing on a pretext to remove the insidious Jewish threat from Yathrib—promptly declared war on the entire Qaynuqa‘ Tribe. After a short siege the Jews surrendered unconditionally, but before Muhammad could exact any kind of revenge upon them, ‘Abd al-Lah ibn Ubayy ibn Salul intervened; ‘Abd al-Lah was a leader of the Arab Khazraj Tribe with whom the Qaynuqa‘ Jews had formed an alliance in previous years, and intimidated Muhammad into treating his Jewish allies with mercy. The Qaynuqa‘ were allowed to leave Yathrib alive, taking their possessions with them and fleeing to Syria. Muhammad never forgave ‘Abd al-Lah’s intervention, however, and bestowed upon him the eternal epithet of “Arch-Hypocrite” in his proclamations.[66]

Following this episode, Muhammad increased the anti-Jewish vitriol in his revelations and preachments, inciting his followers into further acts of violence against his most insidious enemy. The most notable instance of this bigotry occurred when the fanatical Ansari Believer Muhayyisa ibn Mas‘ud murdered his Jewish trading associate, an act of conviction that inspired Muhayyisa’s brother Huwayyisa to become a Believer also; the future boded ill for the two remaining Jewish tribes in Yathrib.[67]

625 – The Battle of Uhud

Muhammad’s position in Yathrib endangered the prosperity and security of Mak’a, which now found the overland routes to Syria blocked by the Messenger’s northern vantage-point. Attempts were made by the Quraysh to send their commerce to the markets of Mesopotamia, but this endeavour was also curtailed by Muhammad’s banditry.[68] In response to this economic stranglehold and spurred by their defeat at Badr, the Quraysh and their allies assembled a large force to subdue Muhammad and the Believers, accompanied by a party of women to sing their praises and urge them on. When the army reached Yathrib, they established a camp on a nearby hill and set their animals loose upon the fields below, to the distress of the local farmers now barricaded in the town. Both Muhammad and ‘Abd al-Lah the Hypocrite agreed that a siege was the best course of action, but zealous young Believers keen to demonstrate their prowess and achieve glory loudly advocated violent confrontation with the Quraysh, and Muhammad conceded to their pressure. ‘Abd al-Lah refused to support this course of action, and when Muhammad went out to meet the Mak’an coalition, ‘Abd al-Lah and his forces departed from the Believing army and returned to Yathrib – for this, ‘Abd al-Lah and his men were chastised in a revelation from Jibra’il, and accused of unbelief.[69] Muhammad proceeded to engage the Quryash, and in the ensuing battle, the Believers became disarrayed and were scattered by the Mak’an cavalry. Muhammad himself was injured, and had to hide with some of his companions on the nearby mountain of Uhud whilst the rest of the Believers fled back to Yathrib, believing the Messenger to be dead. After mutilating the corpses of their enemies and celebrating their victory, the Quraysh returned to Mak’a, satisfied that they had avenged the events of Badr. This was only a temporary measure, however; after the Qurayshi victory at Uhud, the Mak’an leader Sakr ibn Harb swore that he would one day return to eradicate Muhammad and the Believers once and for all.[70]

[1] Walter W. Skeat, A Concise Etymological Dictionary of the English Language (New York, NY: Cosimo, Inc., 2005), p.332.

[2] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham (Translated and Annotated by Alfred Guillaume), The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, 2004), pp.69-73.

[3] Martin Lings, Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources(London, UK: Unwin Paperbacks, 1986), pp.23-26.

[4] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.73.

[5] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.45.

[6] Daniel C. Peterson, Muhammad: Prophet of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2007), p.28.

[7] Daniel C. Peterson, Muhammad, p.29.

[8] Benjamin Walker, Foundations of Islam: The Making of a World Faith(London, UK: Peter Owen, 1998), p.58: “During Ramadan the hanifs of Mecca would retire into the hills and caves around the town, where the solitude and silence of the desert worked on their spirits and brought to them a closer realization of the divine presence.”

[9] Uri Rubin, ‘Hanifiyya and Ka‘ba: An Inquiry into the Arabian pre-Islamic background of din Ibrahim’, in Jerusalem Studies in Arabic and Islam, 13(1990), pp.85-112. According to Uri Rubin, the Mak’an Hanifi poet Umayya ibn Abu al-Salt prohibited the consumption of wine, whilst in Yathrib the Hanifi poet Abu Qays Sirma ibn Abu Anas performed ritual ablutions and avoided menstruating women and other Hunafa’ such as As‘ad ibn Zurara, Al-Barra’ ibn Ma‘rur and Muhammad ibn Maslama also practiced ritual ablutions. One Meccan Hanifi in particular, Zayd ibn ‘Amr, is attributed in some traditions with introducing Muhammad to the idea that prayer should be conducted facing the Ka‘ba.

[10] Daniel C. Peterson, Muhammad, pp.29-30.

[11] Martin Lings, Muhammad, p.29.

[12] ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham (Translated and Edited by Michael Edwardes),The Life of Muhammad, Apostle of Allah, by Ibn Ishaq (London, UK: Folio Society, 2003), p.22.

[13] Martin Lings, Muhammad, p.34.

[14] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.82-83.

[15] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.104-107.

[16] Bukhari 1:1:3, Bukhari 4:54:461, Bukhari 4:55:605, Bukhari 6:60:444, Bukhari 6:60:445, Bukhari 6:60:447, Bukhari 6:60:448, Bukhari 6:60:478, Bukhari 6:60:479, Bukhari 6:60:480, Bukhari 6:60:481, Bukhari 8:73:233, Bukhari 9:87:111, Muslim 1:301, Muslim 1:302, Muslim 1:303, Muslim 1:304, Muslim 1:305, Muslim 1:306, Muslim 1:307, Muslim 1:308.

[17] Bukhari 1:1:2, Bukhari 1:1:3, Bukhari 4:54:438, Bukhari 4:54:461, Bukhari 4:55:605, Bukhari 6:60:444, Bukhari 6:60:445, Bukhari 6:60:447, Bukhari 6:60:448, Bukhari 6:60:478, Bukhari 6:60:479, Bukhari 6:60:480, Bukhari 6:60:481, Bukhari 8:73:233, Bukhari 9:87:111, Muslim 1:301, Muslim 1:302, Muslim 1:303, Muslim 1:304, Muslim 1:305, Muslim 1:306, Muslim 1:307, Muslim 1:308, Muslim 30:5763, Muslim 30:5764, Muslim 30:5765, Muslim 30:5766, Malik 15:4:7.

[18] A. J. Wensinck, ‘Wahy’, in Martijn T. Houtsma (ed.), E.J. Brill’s First Encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume VIII: Ta’if—Zurkhana (Leiden, The Netherlands: E. J. Brill, 1993), pp.1091-1093.

[19] Jalal al-Din ‘Abd al-Rahman al-Suyuti (Translated by Hamid Algar, Michael Schub & Aynam A. Haleem), The Perfect Guide to the Sciences of the Qur’an: Al-Itqan fi ‘Ulum al-Qur’an, Volume 1 (Reading, UK: Garnet Publishing Ltd., 2011), pp.101-102.

[20] Malise Ruthven, Islam in the World, Third Edition (Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press, Inc., 2006), p.35. Maxime Rodinson explores the issue of Muhammad’s mental state and saj‘ poetry in greater depth in Muhammad,Second English Edition (London, UK: Penguin Books Ltd., 1996), pp.131-132.

[21] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.111-112.

[22] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.115-117.

[23] Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, pp.98-102. It is stated in Ibn Is’haq’s Sira Rasul’Llah (p.194) that after Muhammad’s trip to al-Ta’if immediately prior to the Hijra: “When the apostle returned to Mecca his people opposed him more bitterly than ever, apart from the few lower-class people who believe in him.”

[24] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.117-121.

[25] Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, pp.106-108. For more details on the actual ‘Shaytanic Verses’ themselves, see: Richard Bell (Revised by William M. Watt), Bell’s Introduction to the Qur’an (Edinburgh, UK: Edinburgh University Press, 2005), pp.55-56.

[26] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.118.

[27] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.130-145.

[28] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.146-150.

[29] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.159-167.

[30] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.172-175.

[31] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.191-192.

[32] Colin Turner, ‘Abu Lahab’, in Oliver Leaman (ed.), The Qur’an: An Encyclopedia (New York, NY: Routledge, 2006), p.9. When ‘Imran first died, ‘Abd al-‘Uzza had maintained his protection of Muhammad, but when he learned that Muhammad believed ‘Abd al-Muttalib (‘Abd al-‘Uzza’s father and Muhammad’s grandfather) to be a denizen of hell, ‘Abd al-‘Uzza withdrew his protection and cursed the Messenger; see: Muhammad ibn Sa‘d (Translated by Moinul Haq), Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Volume 1 (New Delhi, India: Kitab Bhavan, 1972), p.243.

[33] J. Barth, ‘Abu Lahab’, in Martijn T. Houtsma (ed.), E. J. Brill’s First Encyclopedia of Islam, 1913-1936, Volume 1: A—Baba Beg (Leiden, The Netherlands, E. J. Brill, 1993), pp.97-98.

[34] Bukhari 6:60:293, Bukhari 6:60:294, Bukhari 6:60:325, Bukhari 6:60:495, Bukhari 6:60:496, Bukhari 6:60:497, Muslim 1:406, Muslim 1:407.

[35] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.192-194.

[36] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.197-227.

[37] Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands: A History and Source Book(Philadelphia, PA: The Jewish Publication Society of America, 1979), p.9. The designation of ‘Ansar’ and ‘Muhajirun’ is mentioned on page 115.

[38] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.231-233. Of particular note is the following ordinance: “If any dispute or controversy likely to cause trouble should arise it must be referred to God and to Muhammad the apostle of God.”

* To take an infamous example, Muhammad’s Qur’an (Sura 40:36 and Sura 28:38) has the Pharaoh (from the Book of Exodus) ordering the evil, anti-Semitic politician Haman (from the Book of Esther) to construct the Tower of Babel (from the Book of Genesis).

[39] Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, pp.11-13. Examples of Muhammad’s views to the Jews include Sura 2:79 (which accuses Jews of corrupting their scriptures), Sura 4:153-161 (which accuses the Jews of murdering their Prophets), Sura 5:51 (which instructs Believers not to befriend Jews (and Christians also), although this verse was revealed following the Qaynuqa‘ Affair (see below)), and Sura 5:57-86 (which accuses the Jews of corrupting their original God-given religion). The later Sura 9:29-35 even accuses Jews of associating a son with God. Many negative mentions of the Jews in Sura al-Baqara derive from this early period, when most of al-Baqara was revealed. (Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham,The Life of Muhammad, pp.247-270.).

This negative attitude towards the Jews developed soon after the Hijra; when a Believer named As‘ad ibn Zuhara “during the months in which the mosque was being built”, Muhammad asserted: “The Jews and Arab hypocrites are sure to say “If he were a prophet his companion would not die” and (truly) I have no power from God for myself or for my companion (to avert death).” (Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.235.). A long list of Jewish critics is recorded by Ibn Is’haq and Ibn Hisham, who are accused of being envious of Muhammad’s Messenger-status: “These were the Jewish rabbis, the rancorous opponents of the apostle and his companions, the men who asked questions, and stirred up trouble against Islam to try to extinguish it…” (Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.239-240.).

[40] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.239. Early revelations denouncing the Munafiqin include Sura 4:61-63, Sura 4:140-142 and Sura 8:49.

[41] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.169. This event is also mentioned in: Muslim 8:3452.

[42] Bukhari 5:58:235, Bukhari 7:62:15, Bukhari 7:62:57, Bukhari 9:87:139, Bukhari 9:87:140, Muslim 31:5977, Muslim 31:5978.

[43] Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Yazid al-Tabari (Translated and Annotated by Ismael K. Poonawala), The History of al-Tabari, Volume IX: The Last Years of the Prophet (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1990), pp.129-130. Also see: Bukhari 7:62:18.

[44] Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Yazid al-Tabari (Translated by Ella Landau-Tasseron), The History of al-Tabari, Volume XXXIX: Biographies of the Prophet’s Companions and Their Successors (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1998), pp.171-173.

[45] Bukhari 5:58:234, Bukhari 5:58:236, Bukhari 7:62:64, Bukhari 7:62:65, Muslim 8:3309, Muslim 8:3310, Muslim 8:3311, Da’ud 41:4915, Da’ud 41:4916, Da’ud 41:4917, Majah 3:1876, Majah 3:1877.

[46] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.792.

[47] Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Yazid al-Tabari (Translated by Michael V. McDonald & Annotated by William M. Watt), The History of al-Tabari, Volume VII: The Foundation of the Community (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1987), pp.6-7.

[48] Muhammad ibn Jarir ibn Yazid al-Tabari, The History of al-Tabari, Volume IX, pp.129-131.

[49] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.212-213. Also see pp.280-281. The verses that sanctioned this new policy were Sura 22:40-42.

[50] Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, pp.161-163.

[51] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.280-286.

[52] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.286-289. The passage in question was Sura 2:217.

[53] Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, p.164. Rodinson cites ‘Urwa ibn al-Zubayr (the oldest source for the Battle of Badr) in this instance, who stated that when Muhammad rode out to attack a Mak’an caravan, “…those who rode with him, with no thoughts in their heads but of the booty to be won from the Qurayshites…”

[54] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.289-300. Also see: Bukhari 4:52:149, Bukhari 4:52:164, Bukhari 4:53:369, Bukhari 5:59:292, Bukhari 5:59:293, Bukhari 5:59:294, Bukhari 5:59:295, Bukhari 5:59:296, Bukhari 5:59:298, Bukhari 5:59:299, Bukhari 5:59:300, Bukhari 5:59:301, Bukhari 5:59:302, Bukhari 5:59:309, Bukhari 5:59:320, Bukhari 5:59:321, Bukhari 5:59:322, Bukhari 5:59:324, Bukhari 5:59:355, Bukhari 5:59:360, Bukhari 6:60:398, Bukhari 6:60:400, Muslim 19:4341, Muslim 19:4360, Muslim 19:4434, Muslim 19:4435, Muslim 20:4680, Da’ud 14:2658, Da’ud 14:2659, Da’ud 14:2716, Da’ud 14:2731, Da’ud 14:2732, Da’ud 14:2741.

[55] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.301.

[56] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.307-308. Most of Sura al-Anfal is devoted to the division of spoils. Also see: Bukhari 4:53:369, Bukhari 5:59:360, Bukhari 5:59:361, Bukhari 8:73:226, Da’ud 14:2731, Da’ud 14:2732.

[57] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.305-307. Also see: Bukhari 2:23:452, Bukhari 4:53:409, Bukhari 4:58:193, 5:59:314, 5:59:316, 5:59:317, Bukhari 5:59:360, Muslim 4:2027, Muslim 4:2028, Muslim 19:4421, Muslim 19:4422, Muslim 19:4423, Muslim 40:6868, Muslim 40:6869, Muslim 40:6870.

[58] ‘Ali ibn Ahmad al-Wahidi (Translated by Mokrane Guezzou & Edited by Yousef Meri), Asbab al-Nuzul (Amman, Jordan: Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, 2008), pp.84-85. The verses concerning the ransom were Sura 8:67-71. Also see: Bukhari 8:73:226, Muslim 19:4360, Muslim 31:5903, Da’ud 14:2685.

[59] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.308. Some of Al-Nadr’s activities are mentioned on p.136. Also see: Isma‘il ibn ’Umar ibn Kathir (Translated and Abridged by Safiur-Rahman al-Mubarakpuri & Co.), Tafsir ibn Kathir (Abridged), Volume 4: Surat Al-A’raf to the end of Surah Yunus (Riyadh, KSA: Maktaba Dar-us-Salam, 2003), pp.300-301. Ibn Kathir (concerning Sura 8:31) explicitly records that Muhammad ordered the execution. The motivation for this action (although not clearly mentioned in the abridged English translation) is unambiguously stated in the original Arabic version: Al-Nadr was killed for his blasphemy. See: Isma‘il ibn ’Umar ibn Kathir, ‘Tafsir al-Qur’an al-Adhim’, at, accessed 10 January 2012.

[60] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.308. Also see: Bukhari 1:9:499, Bukhari 1:4:241, Bukhari 4:52:185, Bukhari 4:53:409, Bukhari 5:58:193, Muslim 19:4421, Muslim 19:4422.

[61] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.361-362.

[62] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.360. Also see the Raids of Dhu Amarr and al-Furu‘ (p.362), and the Raid of al-Qarada (p.364).

[63] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.364-369. Also see: Bukhari 3:45:687, Bukhari 4:52:270, Bukhari 4:52:271, Bukhari 5:59:369, Muslim 19:4436.

[64] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.675.

[65] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.675-676. Also see: Maxime Rodinson, Muhammad, pp.157-158 & p.171. Ibn Is’haq is ambiguous about the exact date of this episode (although he clearly places ‘Asma’ bint Marwan after Abu ‘Afak), but al-Waqidi explicitly places it immediately after the Battle of Badr.

[66] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.363-364. Also see: Bukhari 4:53:392, Bukhari 5:59:362, Bukhari 9:85:77, Bukhari 9:92:447, Muslim 19:4364. The catalyst for the attack on the Qaynuqa‘ Tribe (i.e., the prank on the Believing woman) is mentioned in neither of these sources, but derives instead from Ibn Hisham’sal-Sira al-Nabawiyya; see: Norman A. Stillman, The Jews of Arab Lands, pp.122-123, and p.13.

[67] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.369. Although potentially fictitious in nature, this narrative aptly demonstrates the increasing amounts of vitriol that Muhammad directed towards his Jewish foes, and the changing political climate in Yathrib; following the Qaynuqa‘ Affair, Muhammad produced a revelation (Sura 5:51) commanding all Believers to refrain from taking Jews (and Christians) as friends or allies; see: Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.363-364.

[68] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, p.364.

[69] Sura 3:166-168. See: Jalal al-Din al-Mahalli & Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti (Translated by Feras Hamza & Edited by Ghazi bin Muhammad bin Talal),Tafsir al-Jalalayn (Amman, Jordan: Royal Aal al-Bayt Institute for Islamic Thought, 2007), p.77.

[70] Muhammad ibn Is’haq & ‘Abd al-Malik ibn Hisham, The Life of Muhammad, pp.370-391.


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