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Muhammad & Islam
Stories not told before

By Mohammad Asghar

 

Dear Mr. Editor,
Most of the Islamists respond to the Free Thinkers' criticism of Islam by claiming that Muhammad was a God's prophet and as such, whatever he did and said in his lifetime could not be doubted or questioned by any human being. Instead of responding to each and every Islamists, I worked on Muhammad's life and tried to prove the fact that he was simply a manipulative, conniving and dictatorial ruler, by using all of which, he not only established the religion of Islam, he also ruled the Arabian Peninsula with an iron fist for so long as he lived.
 
 

Part 1

                                                 
Long time ago, a tiny spot in the midst of the Arabian Peninsula, became a focal point for all the Pagan Bedouins of the desert for the reason that it had on its bosom the House of God, also known as the Ka'aba, along with a well, the pagans called Zumzum, which helped them quench their killing thirst. 

The pagans were a deeply religious people. They held the view that there was a god to cover each aspect of their lives. Consequently, they believed that there was a god who gave them life. They also believed that the same god gave them sustenance and protected them from all hazards of their lives. They further believed that there were other gods who rained water from the sky and made them successful in their battles.
There was a tribe, called Quraish, among the pagans, which was intelligent and enterprising. Its members preferred sedentary life to a nomadic life.

Capitalizing on other Bedouin tribes' religious devotions as well as their lack of preference to a sedentary life, the members of the Quraish tribe installed themselves in Mecca, around the House of God and the well of Zumzum, with the aim to cater to the religious needs of their nomadic and sedentary brethren. They had the inside and outside of the House of God staked with three hundred and sixty idols, which all of the pagans venerated and worshipped.

Over a period of time, the spot first came to be known as Bakka (3:96) and then Mecca. The Quraish tribe was its virtual occupants due to the fact that some of its powerful members perpetually controlled the supervision, and the religious rituals, of the House of God.

The members of the Quraish tribe consisted of three groups. One was the priestly group, which controlled the House of God, and sustained itself on the income that the House generated for it from the pilgrims. The second group consisted of a small number of the Quraish people who engaged themselves in trade. The third group was large, and it consisted of the people who sustained themselves by providing water and other services to the pilgrims. This occupation of theirs did not guarantee them a regular income; when they had a large number of pilgrims, they earned a good living, but when the number of the pilgrims declined, so did their income. Those people can be compared with our modern-day day laborers; they get paid only when they are employed for active service.

Over 1,400 years ago, there lived in Mecca a man by the name of Abdullah. He belonged to the third group of the Quraish people. His wife's name was Amina. Because he did not have a consistent income, his household often suffered from deprivations. Many a times, the couple had to go to bed without food. Persistent poverty took its toll; the couple frequently fought and argued on their financial condition as well as on what was likely to happen to them in future.

Recognizing the fact that she and her husband did not have the means to feed another mouth, Amina always forced her man to ejaculate his semen outside her vagina. This practice helped her to avoid pregnancy for sometime, but one night Abdullah failed to control himself, and she ended up being a pregnant woman.
Amina was angry. She tried her best to destroy the pregnancy, but failed.

Unable to do anything else with her conception, she resigned to her fate and decided to carry her pregnancy to its full term. Abdullah, her husband, felt for her discomforts and sought to help by providing her with the services of a slave-girl, named Barakat.

But as misfortune would have it, Amina's husband died when she was about six months into her pregnancy. This tragedy increased her hatred towards the child she was carrying in her belly. She considered it to be the harbinger of a bad luck. She feared that many more mishaps would befall her after she delivered the jinxed baby.

At the time of his death, Abdullah is believed to have owned five camels, a few sheep and a female slave of Ethiopian origin, named Barakat.

Not being able to do anything else to alleviate her fear, she carried the fetus until it was ready to take birth as a baby-boy. When the time finally arrived, she delivered the baby without a hitch.

Amina called the baby-boy Kothan, but his grandfather changed it to Muhammad at a later date (see R. V. C. Bodley's The Messenger, p. 6).

Contrary to the general belief, Muhammad is not a Muslim name; rather, it is an Arabian pagan name that was in use even before the birth of Islam's founder.

Genealogically, it is claimed that Muhammad was a descendent of Ismail who, as the Bible implies, was an illegitimate son of Abraham, born of Hagar, an Egyptian handmaid of his wedded wife, Sarah (Genesis, 16:1-15). It was this son, the majority of Muslims believe, whom Abraham attempted to sacrifice upon God's command in a dream, and who, as a consequence, earned the heavenly title of "Zabi-Ullah," i.e. "the one to be sacrificed in the name of God" - - - not his legitimate son Isaac, as claimed by the Book of Genesis.

The actual date of Muhammad's birth is not known, nor can it be ascertained now. The scholarly hypothesis on this issue is at some variance. Philip K. Hitti says that he was born in or around 571 AD (History of the Arabs, p. 111). Abdullah Yusuf Ali maintains, "The year usually given for the Prophet's birth is 570 A.D, though the date must be taken as only approximate, being the middle figure between 569 and 571, the extreme possible limits."(The Holy Quran, V. 2, p. 1071).

The discrepancy in the year of Muhammad's birth notwithstanding, some Muslims categorically maintain that he was born in the early hours of Monday, the 29th day of August, 570 A.D (See Ghulam Mustafa, Vishva Nabi, p. 40).  - - an occasion that they observe each year with great fanfare. Contrary to this, and as is the case with Jesus Christ, the year of Muhammad's birth cannot, in fact, be established with reliable historical evidence. The celebrations that are held now to celebrate Muhammad's birth, therefore, have no Islamic basis and these are mere traditions only.

At the time of Muhammad's birth, the Arabs lived in a state of moral decadence. Though the institution of marriage existed among the Arabs for its namesake, they pursued extramarital sex at whim. On the subject of the Arabs' fornication, Maxime Rodinson quotes Rabbi Wathan:

Nowhere in the world was there such a propensity towards fornication as among the Arabs, just as nowhere was there any power like that of Persia, or wealth like that of Rome, or magic like that of Egypt. If all the sexual license in the world were divided into ten parts, nine of these would be distributed among the Arabs and the tenth would be enough for all the other races (Muhammad, p. 54, as translated by Anne Carter) 

R. V. C Bodley tacitly concurred with Wathan, saying:

There was Amr Ibn al As, the son of a beautiful Meccan prostitute. All the better Meccans were her friends, so that anyone, from Abu Sofian down, might have been Amr's father. As far as anyone could be sure, he might have called himself Amr Ibn Abu Lahab, or Ibn al Abbas or Ibn anyone else among the Koreishite upper ten. According to Meccan standards of that time, it did not matter who had sired him (In his book, The Messenger, p. 73).

According to historians, Muhammad was born during this period of time, and in one of the ten upper class Quraish families of Mecca. To these people, it did not matter who had fathered whom. All children born under this condition must have always faced the question over the legitimacy of their mothers' conceptions!

In spite of becoming the mother of a son, whom her society greatly valued, Amina continued to maintain her hatred towards the newborn boy. In order to take her vengeance out, she refused to suckle him, even when he was hungry.

Seeing the child's suffering and to help him survive, Thuwaibah, a slave-girl of the child's uncle Abu Lahab, took upon herself the responsibility to breastfeed him for a few days (see Adil Salahi's Muhammad: Man and Prophet, p. 23) until someone else was found to take him into her permanent custody.

In the period Muhammad was born, poor Bedouins from the desert used to flock, from time to time, to Mecca to collect alms from those few who could afford to give it to them. Following the tradition, Haleema, a poor Saadite shepherd woman, came and knocked at Amina's door. Being herself a poor widowed woman, Amina had nothing to offer Haleema; instead, she wished to unload her own burden by putting her newborn son into her lap.

Haleema was dumbfounded, for, in her judgment, no mother would ever dispose of her baby in the manner Amina wanted hers disposed. Knowing well her own situation, Haleema, at first, refused to accept the custody of the child, but when she considered the fact that she would have, in due course of time, two more hands to help her family out in its dire circumstances, she took the baby and left for her home.

Haleema's tribe lived in one of the pastoral valleys of Northern Arabia. Though they were poor, yet they always maintained their industrious and bold characters. Unlike the people of the Quraish tribe, the people of the Saadite tribe excelled in the use of sword and lances. Their dexterous use of swords and lances always earned them triumphs in the struggles that they had to face almost regularly, and perpetually, in order to survive in the harsh conditions and environments of their surroundings.

The people of the Saadite tribe were also renowned for speaking the most refined Arabic in all of Arabia. The similarity of the Quran's language with that of the Saaditic Arabic is the indication that the writer of the Quran must have been one of the Saadites, or that he must have lived among them during his formative years.

The entire population of the Arabian Peninsula believed in the existence of angels. They also believed that angels pay visits to people who were destined to receive special favors from Allah. This deity lived in and around the Ka'aba along with other 359 gods. Because the Arabs believed in the angels' closeness to Allah, many of them took up their worship with the hope that once pleased, the angels would have no difficulty in convincing Allah to grant them relief from their endless sufferings.

Haleema's son, Masroud, was almost of Muhammad's age. She began rearing up both the infants in her right earnest. She suckled both of them and cared for them equally. She looked forward to the day when those two infants would grow up and provide her with the help she always needed to make her life somewhat pleasant.

In the interlude she rarely enjoyed, Haleema, being a loving and caring mother, often used to mull over the future of Masroud, her own son. She was the product of the Bedouin life; she herself had been living such a life. Her long experience convinced her that no matter how industrious and brave her son was, the bareness of the desert and the conditions that obtained in it, would never afford him an opportunity to live a life that could even distantly be compared with the one that some people of Mecca lived. She, therefore, wanted her son to go to Mecca to live there a comfortable life.

But how was she going to send her son to Mecca? she consistently asked herself.

Haleema thought and thought. Lost in it, she spent many, many nights without sleep. Even during the day, her mind remained occupied with her only thought: how to induct Masroud, with a secured base, into the Meccan life.

Her constant and persistent exploration of possibilities eventually paid the dividend. It dawned on her that she could achieve her ambition easily, if she arranged to return Muhammad to his mother in Mecca with an undetectable switch. The switching plan required Haleema simply to have Muhammad substituted by Masroud and plant him in Amina's house where, she knew for sure, there was none who could ever suspect or question his identity. 

Pleased with her plan, Haleema began working on its implementation. First of all, she needed to call Muhammad Masroud, and Masroud Muhammad. At the beginning, the infants appeared a little confused, but after a short period of time, they got used to the change. And this change proved hugely instrumental in turning around the destinies of two innocents infants; one of them was going to change, undeservedly, the face of the earth; the other was going to live, undeservedly for him, too, the life of an anonymous Bedouin.

The second step of the plan required Haleema to create a situation that would facilitate her son's plantation in Amina's house. This step required her to conceive a scenario that would not only fit in the pagans' age-old belief, it would also soften Amina's attitude towards her son whom she despised from the core of her heart. And what could be a better scenario than the following, which she made use of in order to convince Amina that her son was really a prodigious child.

No sooner had Muhammad stepped into the fifth year of his life, Haleema began telling everyone she came across about the prodigious nature of her adopted son. She took special pleasure in narrating the child's encounter with two angels whom, she claimed, her own son Masroud, had seen with his own eyes, surrounding Muhammad in a broad daylight.

Pressed for details, she used to tell her listeners that one day, Masroud and Muhammad were playing in field. While they were engrossed in their play, from nowhere, two angels appeared before Muhammad.

They laid him gently on the ground, and Gabriel, one of the two angels, opened up the boy's heart. He cleansed it from impurity; wrung from it those black and bitter drops of the sin that we inherited from our forefather Adam, and which lurk in the hearts of the best of his descendents, inciting them to the commission of sin. When infant Muhammad had been thoroughly purified, Gabriel filled his heart with faith and knowledge and prophetic light, and then he replaced it in his bosom.

During this angelic visitation, Haleema told her listeners, the angels also impressed between Muhammad's shoulders the seal of prophecy. To prove her claim, she used to make Muhammad bare his body so that those people who doubted her sanity could see with their own eyes the mark that existed between his shoulders.

Haleema had to resort to this cunning tactic in order to hide a serious problem: The child that was born to Amina bore no mark at the back of his body; whereas Masroud had a distinctive birth mark between his shoulders. Now, if Haleema had not invented the story of the angels who, she had to claim, impressed Muhammad's body with "the seal of prophecy," her entire scheme would have been jeopardized, and her desire to plant her son in Amina's house frustrated.

The ground thus prepared for his return to his mother, Haleema carried Muhammad to Mecca and sought to deposit him on Amina's lap. Seeing her reluctance, Haleema narrated to her all that that had happened to Muhammad, and also the affixation of the seal of prophecy by the angels on his back. Considerably mellowed down by Haleema's account of the child's supernatural expositions, Amina took back her son.

Haleema returned to her home in the desert, with the satisfaction that she succeeded in placing her son in a Meccan home where he would grow into a man and then find for himself a place to lead a life, filled with relative abundance and peace.

Muhammad remained with Amina until his sixth year, although he often missed Haleema, his biological mother. He played with the local children; joined them in their merrymaking games; watched pilgrims praying at the temple of Ka'aba and welcomed and said goodbyes to the caravans that halted at the city before departing for their trading destinations. All the activities of the city fascinated him, for he found them to be quite different from the ones he saw and grew up with in the land of his birth.

Despite the antagonism that Amina had harbored against him following his birth, she treated him fairly well after his return from the desert. She fed him to the best of her ability; clothed him to the extent it was necessary and took care of his well being as well. She also took him around in the city and introduced him to his near as well as distant relatives.

After a few months of his return to Mecca, Amina took Muhammad to Medina and introduced him to her maternal relatives there. On her journey homeward, she died and was buried at Abwa, a village that lied between Medina and Mecca. Barakat, the slave-girl, now acted as a mother of the orphan child and delivered him to his grandfather Abd al Mutallib in whose household he was destined to spend three years of his life.


 Part 2

 

Abd al Muttalib was the guardian of the temple of Ka'aba and from it he had a good income. But because his family consisted of a large number of people, he often found it difficult to meet all of their needs. As a result, tension prevailed, most of the time, among his family members, even though they always put up a smiling face while being outside their home.

Muhammad's inclusion in the family did not help the situation; rather, it brought about an additional load. All members of the family wanted him gone but as he was under his grandfather's protection, none dared ask him to leave. It did not mean that they had to develop a love for the child; what actually happened was exactly its opposite: They began to hate him and missed no opportunity that came to them to harass him. They might not have inflicted bodily injuries on him, but they almost certainly harmed him, beyond repairs, emotionally and psychologically.

When he suffered at the hands of his grandfather's family members, none of its female members ever came forward either to rescue him from their harassment or to console him afterwards. This attitude of theirs brought to his mind his mother's memory. He longed to be with her; wanted to be loved and hugged by her, but he could have none of them for the reason that she had abandoned him in the midst of those strange people. He started developing a hatred of his own towards his mother!

About three years after Muhammad had joined his family, Abd al Motallib found his end approaching. He, therefore, handed him over to his eldest son, Abu Taleb, in whose household he lived for several years.

 

THE CITY OF MECCA
 

The little town of Mecca, situated near the Red Sea coast of Arabia, had acquired great importance by the sixth century for two different reasons: It became an important center of idol worshipping, to which many of the nomadic tribes of Arabia made pilgrimages on a regular basis. In addition to its religious prestige, however, Mecca also became an active center for commerce, from where caravans departed to various destinations on their trading missions.

Mecca was then a tiny township and most of its inhabitants belonged to the Quraish tribe whose number could not have exceeded a couple of thousands. It was, and it still remains, an arid and inhospitable land incapable of producing anything to support its inhabitants' lives. Its pathways were dusty, with no civic facility worth its name existing therein. Its inhabitants knew nothing about personal health or hygiene.

Dwelling in tiny roofless homes built of clay, they survived in extreme poverty, which forced many of them to use goat and sheep skin to cover their bodies. No school of any kind existed in Mecca. In contrast to the Meccans, the Jews of Madina are believed to have run their own schools in which they instructed their children, primarily in the matters of their religious disciplines.

Because the Arabs could hardly ignite fire, both for cooking and illumination, they ate dates, locusts and lizards, and depended on camel's milk as a substitute for water. However, the Quran says that Allah had provided them with some kind of "green trees" (36:80) from which they obtained fire to meet their needs. During nights, the Arabs stayed inside their tents and homes, fearing mischief from capricious Jinns, which they believed, attacked mankind in darkness at solitary places.

Having nothing worthwhile to do either during the day or night, most of the people spent their time gossiping, drinking, gambling or narrating the fables that came down to them through generation after generation. Their other main pastime was an inordinate obsession with sex, both hetero-and homosexual, for they were reputed to have been endowed with great sexual virility. Muhammad possessed so much of virility, it is said, that he was able to satisfy all of his wives, numbering nine, during a single night.

The Arabs also practiced pederasty, an act they considered to be a normal part of their sexual conduct. Their womenfolk also led a highly licentious life, engaging themselves in sexual acts with any men they felt attracted to. Men recognized this conduct as being normal on the part of their women.

On the death of Abd al Mottalib, his son, Abu Talib succeeded to the guardianship of Ka'aba, assuming the religious functions performed by all of his predecessors. The priestly office held by him required his sacerdotal household to observe rigidly all the rites and ceremonies of the sacred House of Allah. This afforded young Muhammad the opportunity to observe them closely and to record them in his mind, enabling him later to incorporate most of them, sans the idol worshipping, in his own religion.

 

PAGAN RITES
 

The rites and ceremonies practiced by the pagan Arabs before the advent of Islam consisted of, among others, the following:

-The pagans observed three principal fasts within the year; one of seven, one of nine, and one of thirty days. During their fasts, they ate and drank, but refrained from conversations.
-They prayed three times each day; about sunrise, at noon, and about sunset, turning their faces in the direction of Ka'aba (Washington Irving, Mahomet and his successors, p. 31).
     -They performed a yearly pilgrimage or hajj, which required them to circumambulate the Ka'aba seven times, to run between the two hills called Safa and Marwa on each of which was installed a male and a female idol, to sacrifice animals in the name of the deities, and then to shave the heads of all male pilgrims. Female pilgrims satisfied the later commandment simply by having a few locks of their haircut off.

 

ALLAH
 

One of the three hundred and sixty idols the pagans worshipped was called Allah, having all the essential characteristics of a man. He was one of their principal deities. They believed that this Allah gave them life and sustained them with his mercy and kindness. This deity was known as Al-Rahman-an (the merciful) and Al-Rahim (the compassionate) to the people of Northern and Southern Arabia.

The inscription (542-3) of Abrahah dealing with the break of the Ma'rib Dam bears testimony to this historical fact. The inscription begins with the following words: "In the power and grace and mercy of the Merciful ((Rahman-an) and His messiah and of the Holy Spirit." The name Al-Rahman-an is especially significant because al-Rahman became later a prominent attribute of Allah, and one of His ninety-nine names in the Quran. Sura or chapter nineteen of the Quran is dominated by the word al-Rahman. Though used in the inscription for the Christian God, yet the word is evidently borrowed from the name of one of the older South Arabian deities.

In truth, Muhammad, at the beginning of his career as a prophet, had required his followers to worship this same statuary Allah. He changed this commandment later to suite his concept of a God who, he believed, had no form or shape, thus separating his concept from that of the pagans and other polytheists of his time.

Apart from the stated rites, the pagans had many other religious traditions, some of which they acquired in early times from the Jews. They are also said to have nurtured their devotional feelings with the books of Psalms, as well as with a book filled with moral discourses, supposedly written by Seth who, according to the biblical stories, was one of Adam's many sons. Adam was the first human being whom God created, by using his own hands, out of mud, which he made by mixing dust with water.

Muhammad's transfer to his uncle's household did not bring him any relief from what he suffered in his grandfather's house. Abu Taleb was not rich, either, but he, too, had a large family. Even though he, in addition to his sacerdotal duties of the Ka'aba, had taken to trading to supplement his income, yet he did not earn enough to provide for all the needs of his family members. Scarcity was a rule, rather than an exception for his family. As the family often passed their days in hardship, Muhammad's addition to the family became a burden not only for its head, but also for its members. Consequently, they made him feel unwelcome in their midst, and used, in his presence, languages and gestures, which were good enough to act as salt for the wounds he had already acquired from his grandfather's house.

Abu Taleb, on his part, was aware of the situation that his nephew had to endure in his house. He wanted to help, but he, too, was handicapped; had he been able to meet the needs of his immediate family members, he could have justified Muhammad's presence in his house, but that was not the case and, consequently, he could do nothing for him, but to play the role of a spectator. When he could live no more with his nephew's agonizing conditions, he found him a job of a shepherd.
His job required him to take his employers' camels into the plains for grazing. He   thus had to spend, all by himself, the major portion of his days in the grim desert outside of Mecca. Letting the camels roam about in search of a thorn or a blade of grass among the pile of stones, we can visualize how a young, sensitive and intelligent boy of the age of Muhammad, must have spent his time.

It is a rule of nature that misfortune and sufferings create bitterness in a person and these make him conscious of his situation, especially when he finds himself with nothing to distract him from his thoughts. Such a person grieves over his misfortune and tries to find out its causes. While doing so, he develops a strange internal feeling, which can be described only by a person who had undergone such an experience in his or her own life.

Since the above observation amply applied to young Muhammad, we may safely conjecture that in the midst of his frustrating loneliness, he must have asked himself why he had come into the world as a fatherless orphan, and why he had to work as a shepherd at such a lonely place at such a young age, while other children of his age were spending their time in the company of their loving parents. He must also have asked himself why his mother had to leave him at the mercy of the people he hardly knew, and why their treatment of him was different from that of their own children.
Despite the fact that he brought in some income to his uncle's family, yet they continued to treat him in the manner of the past. The continuity of their past behavior hurt him deeply; its resultant pains being the major cause for deepening his hatred towards his mother. He believed that if he had been living with her, nobody would have subjected him to the degrading insults that he suffered from at his grandfather's house, and which continued to be heaped upon on him at his uncle's house. He held his mother responsible for all of his sufferings.

His ego, sensitivity and feelings greatly hurt, Muhammad stopped playing with other children in his spare time. Instead, he felt more at home when conversing with other people who came to Mecca on pilgrimage or on trade. He enjoyed their conversations on religious matters. He also derived immense pleasure from their story-telling sessions. Very often, he prompted them into narrating the tantalizing and fascinating Arabian tales of the past. Most of the tales and fables he heard from them acted like balm for his wounds. When he got his opportunity, he narrated them eloquently to his listeners, who, in their own turn, made them an important and integral part of the Quran!

When he had no story-telling session to attend, he took immense pleasure in watching the arrival and departure of the caravans, which traded in Syria and Yemen, and thronged at Mecca before their dispersal. The thought of being in foreign lands filled young Muhammad's mind with excitement and carried his imagination to things he himself hoped one day to see in those distant countries.

Once, Muhammad saw Abu Taleb mount his camel to depart with a caravan bound for Syria. Unable to suppress his ardent desire, he begged his uncle to take him along on his journey. Abu Taleb could not deny his forceful request and gave him permission to accompany the caravan.

The route to Syria, in those days, lay through regions fertile in fables and traditions, which it was the delight of the traveling Arabs to recount during the evening respites of their caravans. The vastness and solitude of the desert in which the wandering Arabs passed so much of their lives was the fertile ground that also gave birth to numerous superstitious fancies. Accordingly, they had the deserts peopled with good and evil Jinns, and clothed them with tales of enchantment, mingled with wonderful but dubious events, which, they believed, had taken place in the distant past.

While traveling, the youthful Muhammad doubtless imbibed many of those superstitions of the desert. Remaining ingrained in his retentive memory, they later played a powerful role over his thoughts and imagination.

We may note here two ancient traditions, out of the many of the Arabian legends, which Muhammad must have heard at this time, and which we find recounted by him afterwards in the Quran. One of these related to the mountainous district called Hadjar.

As caravans crossed the silent and deserted valleys, caravanners gazed at the caves at the sides of the mountains. These caves were said to have been once inhabited by the Bani Thamud or the Children of Thamud. These people, Arabs believed, belonged to one of the lost tribes of Arabia.

Bani Thamud were a proud and gigantic race, existing at the time of patriarch Abraham. When they lapsed into idolatry, God sent them a prophet from among themselves whose name was Saleh. His task was to restore them to His righteous path. People refused to listen to him unless he proved the divinity of his mission through a miracle. Saleh prayed, and God caused a rock to open up from which came out a gigantic she-camel, producing a foal and abundant milk soon after.
Some of the Thamudites were convinced by the sight of the miracle and gave up idolatry. The greater majority of them remained unimpressed and continued in their disbelief.

Disappointed, Saleh left the camel among the people as a sign from God, but warned them that a catastrophe would befall should they do her any harm. For a time, the camel was left to feed quietly in their pastures, but when she drank from a brook or a well, she never raised her head until she had drained the last drop of water.

In return, it was believed, she produced milk to supply the whole tribe. As she, however, frightened other camels out of pastures by her huge size, she became an object of offense to the Thamudites who, to get rid of the beast, hamstrung and then slew her.

God retaliated for the killing of the she-camel. He caused a fearful cry, accompanied by great claps of thunder, to descend upon the Thamudites people at night from heaven; in the morning all the offenders were found dead, lying prostrated on their faces. Thus for avenging the death of a she-camel, God obliterated a whole race from the face of the earth. The land of the Thamudites still remains barren, caused by a constant curse from heaven.

This story had a powerful impact on Muhammad's mind, who, in later years, refused to let his people encamp in the neighborhood, hurrying them away from this accursed region.

Another tradition gathered by Muhammad during one of his journeys related to the city of Eyla, situated near the Red Sea. This place, he was told, had been inhabited in ancient times by a tribe of the Jews. Like the Thamudites, they had lapsed into idolatry. Also, because the tribe had profaned the Sabbath by fishing on that sacred day, God transformed their old men into swine, and the young ones into monkeys.

What had happened to their womenfolk was not told, so Muhammad necessarily remained vague while narrating this story in the Quran.

The aforesaid traditions, among others, are found eloquently described in the Quran, thus indicating the extent of the bias to which Muhammad's youthful mind had been subjected during his journeys.

Muslim writers have eulogized many wonderful circumstances, which are stated to have attended Muhammad throughout all the journeys of his life. He was, they assert, hovered over by unseen angels with their wings to protect him from the burning sands of the desert and the scorching rays of the sun.

On another occasion, he was protected by a cloud, which hung over his head during the noontime heat. On yet another occasion, a withered tree suddenly put forth its leaves and blossomed in order to provide shade to the distressed Muhammad.

All those miracles did not rest on the evidence of an eyewitness; rather these were Muhammad's own statements, or were invented, after his death, by his zealot followers, which Muslims are required to believe without ever asking any questions.

During his journeys, Muhammad is said to have met a number of Christian hermits. Monk Bahira was prominent among them. On conversing with Muhammad, Bahira was struck by the precocity of his intellect and became entranced by his eager desire for varied information. His inquisitiveness centered, principally, on maters of religion. The two were believed to have held frequent conversations on the subject, in course of which, the discourse of the monk was mainly directed against idolatry, the practice in which the youthful Muhammad had hitherto been raised. The Nestorian Christians, for whom Bahira was a faithful patron, were strenuous in forbidding the worship of images. They prohibited even their casual exhibition. Indeed, they had taken their scruples on this matter so far that even the cross, a common emblem of Christianity, was included in this prohibition.

Muslim writers stress the point that Bahira had become interested in the youthful Muhammad because he had seen the seal of prophecy on his shoulders. This vision, they swear, gave the monk the conviction that this was the same Prophet whose arrival had been foretold in the Christian Scriptures. The monk is further reported to have told Abu Talib to ensure that his nephew did not fall into the hands of the Jews, thereby forecasting with the eye of prophecy the trouble and opposition that Muhammad was destined to encounter in future from that religious group of people.
We doubt if the mentioned encounter had ever taken place. Supposing that it had actually taken place, in that event, the purpose of Bahira's encounter must have revolved around one of his own agendas. Since the monk was engaged in a mission and predisposed toward proselytizing, he, being a sectarian preacher, needed no miraculous sign to develop an interest in an intelligent and intense Muhammad, and to attempt to convert him to the beliefs he was then propagating. He knew that his subject was a receptive listener; and he was also the nephew of the guardian of Ka'aba. He also knew that if he succeeded in implanting the seeds of his teachings into Muhammad's tender mind, he would be spreading, through him, the doctrines of his sect among the people of Mecca, thus advancing his mission by a great stride. This was a good motivation for Bahira to develop an interest in Muhammad. He did not have to see the putative seal of prophecy in order to be convinced with his subject's potentiality and usefulness.

What the monk is reported to have told Abu Talib about Muhammad must have been a precautionary suggestion. In the unsettled state of religious opinions then obtaining in the Arabian Peninsula, the monk wanted to prevent his would-be convert from being engulfed by the Jewish faith, which was then influencing the pagans in its favor. Had it happened; the monk would have lost a good candidate for his faith, and this would have been a great setback for the cause he was then duty-bound to promote. 

With Abu Talib, Muhammad returned to Mecca, his mind teeming with wild tales and traditions he picked up during his journey through the desert. He remained deeply impressed by the doctrines imparted to him by Monk Bahira in the Nestorian monastery, which, as we will note shortly, had helped him tremendously later in his life in shaping his own thoughts and religious doctrines.

Muhammad had also developed a mysterious reverence for Syria, believing it to have given refuge to the patriarch Abraham when he had fled from Chaldea, taking with him the doctrine of worshipping one true God. His veneration of this country was so deep that he is said to have initially faced Syria (Ibn Ishaq's Sirat Rasul Allah, as translated by A. Guillaume, p. 135), while saying his three daily prayers.

While not traveling with a caravan, Muhammad worked as a shepherd. But when he reached his manhood, different persons employed him as their commercial agent, to be with their trade caravans, which traveled to Syria, the Yemen and other destinations on commercial pursuits. The fact that he was given charge of trade by his employers negates the Muslim claim that Muhammad was an illiterate person and, therefore, he could not have said or written what the Quran contains. A person unable to read or write could not have been given the important post of a commercial agent, especially, when other Meccans are claimed to have been able to do so. His ability to read and write must also have helped him to get his jobs, for it was in the best interest of his employers to hire someone who was able to keep a written record of the trade activities he engaged himself in, particularly in a situation where he had to travel to, and live in, distant places for a long period of time.

During his journey through Jerusalem, Muhammad had the opportunity of seeing the Temple of Solomon, located on the hill of Moriah. King Solomon had built it for Yahweh, who was one among many gods of the ancient people. In the Quran, this Temple is referred to as the Farthest Mosque (Masjid-ul-Aqsa). His familiarity with this temple helped him later to describe it vividly when questioned about his alleged ascension to Seventh Heaven during a night.

Muslims firmly believe that Muhammad landed here on his wonder horse, known as Burraq, and walked across the plaza - built by Herod to expand the area of the Second Temple - and then ascended to heaven during a night to hold talks with God. When asked to describe the temple in order to prove his claim of the mysterious ascension, God, it said, presented its replica in his vision to enable him to satisfy the incredulity of his Meccan tormentors. During their rule over Jerusalem, Muslims built, near the Temple of Solomon, a mosque known as the Dome of Rock, to commemorate the ascension. It is also called the Mosque of Hadhrat Umar. This has become the third holiest Muslim place of worship after the Ka'aba in Mecca and the Mosque of the Prophet in Madina.

King Solomon was the person who had first used the oft-repeated Muslim invocation of God's glory in a letter that he is said to have written to Queen Bilquis of Sheba, some seventeen hundred centuries before the advent of Islam. The invocation, reading as follows, are now used by all Muslims every day before they do anything in their lives:

Bismillah hir Rahman nur Rahim, meaning: In the name of Allah, the Most Gracious, Most Merciful.

We suspect that the pagans used the same invocation before their idol Allah. Muhammad lifted it from the pagan practice and made it an essential component of his religion. 

Before we proceed further with our narrative, we may pause here and discuss briefly a psychological theory or observation. It is known that belief can blunt human reasoning and common sense. It has been established that ideas, which have been inculcated into a person's mind in childhood, remain in the background of his thinking forever. Consequently, such a person will want to make facts conform to his indoctrinated ideas, which may have no rational validity. Many learned scholars are known to have remained handicapped by this burden, and inhibited from using their common sense. It is not that they never used their common sense in religious enterprises; they used it only when it corroborated with their inculcated ideas.

Mankind's faculties of perception and rationalization have enabled them to find solution of scientific problems, but in matters of religious and political beliefs, the same species is willing to trample on the evidence of reason and senses.

 

 

PART-3


Evaluating Muhammad from the above perspectives, one would find that he was one of the few exceptional persons who lived on our earth. Though he grew up in a particular religious environment, yet when situations demanded, he was not only able to throw off his childhood indoctrination that evolved around idolatry; he was also able to introduce and adapt himself to a new religion that suited his as well as his people's interests. The stated metamorphosis on Muhammad's part was possible because, apart from being an exceptionally able person, he was also, in his heart, a true nationalist, who, being motivated to help his people, did everything that was necessary to make their lives better.

Contrary to the Muslim conviction that Muhammad was originally created by God as a believer in His Oneness, he is reported to have worshipped and offered sacrifices to Al-Uzza, an idol the pagans believed to be one of the three daughters of God (cf. 42:52). The Quraish venerated Al-Uzza highly, believing that her intercession on their behalf would be acceptable to God, her father. One of his uncles was named after this idol, and he was called Abd al Uzza, the slave of Uzza, before he was nicknamed Abu Lahab, the Father of Flame, by his Muslim foes.

On Muhammad's pagan backgrounds, F. E. Peters wrote:

According to a famous, though much edited, tradition, it was young Muhammad who was the pagan and Zayd ibn Amr who was the monotheist. Peters also quoted Zayd ibn Haritha, who is said to have narrated the following story to his son:
The Prophet slaughtered a ewe for one of the idols (nusub min al-ansab); then he roasted it and carried it with him. … (Muhammad and the Origins of Islam, p. 126).
While preaching the oneness of God, Muhammad continued, in one form or another, to venerate the idols-up to the time he conquered Mecca-when all the idols housed inside and outside the Ka'aba he had finally destroyed.

In his early life, Muhammad was no different than other youths of his time. He used to "spend his nights in Mecca as young men did" - - - (Ibn Ishaq. Op. cit, p. 81) - - - in quarters where whores offered their bodies to youths whom they expected to defend them in times of perils. His marriage with Khudeija might have had altered his lifestyle to a certain degree, but it was not a good enough reason for him to abandon his earlier habits in their entirety.

Muhammad was also a frequent attainder of fairs, which, in Arabia, were not always the mere venues of business activities, but also occasionally scenes of poetic contests between different individuals, where prizes were adjudged to the victors. Such especially was the case with the fair of Oqadh; winning poems were hung up as trophies on the walls of Ka'aba. At these fairs, also, contestants recited the popular traditions of the Arabs. They also propagated various religious practices that were then common in the peninsula. From oral sources of this kind, Muhammad gradually accumulated varied information about creeds and doctrines, which he afterwards prescribed for his own followers.

As was the wont of his tribe, Muhammad also used to retire to a cave in Mount Hira to practice penance on the 10th of Muharram, a day sacred to the Jews as well. Following the Jewish custom, he also fasted on this day (Philip K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, p. 133. Also see Karen Armstrong's A History of God, p. 132).

 

USE OF ALCOHOL IN ISLAM
 


Muslims venerate Muhammad as being abstemious in his physical life. This point of view contradicts a natural phenomenon. He was part of a society that must have made him susceptible to all of its practices. If he wanted to have protection of his tribe, without which, none could have survived in the hostile Arabian societies, he must have participated in his society's indulgences, which included drinking of a highly stinking liquor called maghafir, as well as wine. The native Arabs made maghafir by extracting juice of the palm-trees and then fermenting it before consumption (16:67.Also see Maulana Ashraf Ali Thanvi, Asmani Quran Sharif, p. 902).

Because the Arabs were generally addicted to drinking, the Quran did not actually describe drinking of alcohol as "Haram" or forbidden in the strict sense of the word; what it required Muslims of was not to offer their prayers in a state of drunkenness (4:43), and that they try to "avoid or refrain" from drinking (5:93,94), thus corroborating in part, the condition, which the Torah and the Bible imposed, respectively, on Jews and the Christians (Leviticus, 10:9).

Under the circumstances described, it is to be understood that since Muhammad himself drank maghafir and wine, he must have thought it to be a prudent decision to remain vague on the subject of drinking. At the same time, he must have considered it politic to ask his followers gently to moderate their intake of alcohol, he himself having experienced, in his own life, the adverse impact of excessive drinking.

When working for various Meccan merchants, Muhammad came to know the amounts of profits they were making out of their businesses. He also realized how they spent their wealth on making their and their children's lives better. The reflections of his own childhood plights and sufferings convinced him that the merchants of Mecca not only neglected the city's poor and needy; they were also unkind to the orphans. This realization turned him against the merchants, and he took a vow to force them one day to share their wealth with him and his poor people.

He also had a feeling of ill will towards the custodians of the Ka'aba. He accused them not only of debarring "others from the Sacred Mosque" (8:34); he also questioned their right to be its guardians. He believed that by misusing their authority, they avoided sharing the temple's revenues with those to whom a part of the revenues rightfully belonged. In his judgment, only the God-fearing and those people, who were willing to share the temple's wealth with poor and orphans, had the right to be the Ka'aba's guardian.

The financial independence that his well-paid job brought him also gave him an opportunity to look back and recount the treatments he had received from the ladies of Abd al Motallib and Abu Talib's families.  He also recalled his abandonment in Mecca by his mother. The combined incidences that he had endured made him bitter. He felt betrayed, especially by the women he expected to be caring, kind and loving.

The reoccurrence in his mind of the past humiliations, betrayal, ill treatments and insults rekindled in him his tribal instincts of retribution. He vowed to avenge his sufferings in a subtle, systematic and effective manner. The treatment of women prescribed in, and the restrictions imposed on them, through the Quran as well as Muhammad's own treatment of his wives should be good examples for proving our point.

With the passage of time, Muhammad became determined in his ambitions. The more he thought about his them, the more plans came to his mind. The more he talked to his friends, the more input he got from them on many of their common concerns.  Positive thoughts and responses prepared him to go into offensive to realize what he set out for him to be his goals.

By the age of twenty-five, Muhammad was able to finalize all the details of his scheme. This was also the ripe time for him to get married, but he could not marry any eligible woman. He needed to marry a woman who was willing not only to support him financially, but also to become his partner in the scheme he had prepared for his future implementation. And there were not too many women in Mecca, who could fulfill his criterions, and become his wife.

At the time Muhammad was looking for a suitable bride, there lived in Mecca a widow named Khudeija, a daughter of Khuwalid, of the tribe of Quraish. She had been twice married. Her last husband, a wealthy merchant, had recently died and his widow needed to hire help to manage her vast business interests.

Khudeija had a cousin by the name of Waraqa ibn Nofal. He was a professed monotheist and is believed to have translated portions of the Gospels into Arabic. He wielded much influence over his sister Khudeija, she being alleged to be a regular reader of his works (Sir John Glubb, The Life and Times of Muhammad, p. 68). Both of them held identical views on religious matters, but in cases where they differed, the opinion of Waraqa always prevailed.

Muhammad had become acquainted with Khuzaima, a nephew of Khudeija, during his business trips. The latter had seen the former conducting his business in an efficient and profitable manner, and he was impressed. After their return home, they met frequently in and around the temple of Ka'aba, where Muhammad loved to spend his time after carrying out, in the manner of hajj, seven circuits, around the shrine.

One day, in course of his conversation with Khuzaima, Muhammad expressed his desire to find a job that would pay him more than what he was being paid by his current employer. Khuzaima told him that his aunt Khudeija was looking for a capable agent and that he might be a perfect candidate for the job. He promised to talk to Khudeija about him and also try to arrange an interview for him with her.
Khuzaima kept his words, and he talked to Khudeija. She agreed to meet the candidate at an early date.

On the appointed date and time, Muhammad presented himself before Khudeija. She looked and found a twenty-five years old man standing before her eyes. He was of medium stature, inclined to slimness, with a large head, broad shoulders, and an otherwise perfectly proportioned body. His hair and beard were thick and black, not altogether straight but slightly curled. His hair reached midway between the lobes of his ears and his shoulders, and his beard was of a length to match. He had a noble breadth of forehead and the ovals of his large eyes were wide, with exceptionally long lashes and extensive brows, slightly arched and not joined. His eyes were said to have been brown or even light brown. His nose was aquiline and his mouth was wide and finely shaped. Although he let his beard grow, he never allowed the hair of his moustache to protrude over his upper lips. His skin was white but tanned by the sun (Description copied from Martin Lings' Muhammad, p. 35).

His voice had a touch of music and the sentences he spoke were as rhythmic as the poems of the famed Arabian poet Labid. Khudeija was highly impressed, and she hired Muhammad to run her business.

She assigned her nephew Khuzaima and her slave girl Maisara to him so that they could assist him during the trade missions that he was expected to lead to Syria, the Yemen and other destinations from time to time. During all his missions, he performed all of his duties most diligently, thus earning for himself the admiration of his employer. She afterwards sent him to the southern parts of Arabia on similar pursuits, in all of which he achieved successes beyond his employer's expectation. Every opportunity Muhammad got to prove his worth, he did his best to excel it so that he could endear himself to his employer; every time Khudeija heard about his success; it enhanced in her not only his esteem, but also his fondness.

While Muhammad was applying all his tools to climb the ladder of success, Khudeija turned forty, her age having enabled her to gather the valuable judgment and experience that was necessary to lead a successful life. She longed for a partner who could give her all that that she had been missing ever since her last husband had died. She considered many probable candidates, but, at the end, her choice fell on Muhammad.

Although her heart yearned for the fresh and comely youth, yet she restrained herself before taking steps to fulfill her desire. She had to overcome the ancient Arab tradition that barred women of her age from getting married, together with the objections she expected from her family members. Of particular concern to her was the attitude of her uncle, Amr ibn Asaad, without whose approval it would have been almost impossible for her to marry the man of her choice. She needed to create situations that would not only make the man appear special, but would also force her uncle to sanction her marriage with the man as well.

Soon an opportunity presented itself for Khudeija to exploit. One day at noon, she was with her maids outside her house, watching the arrival of the caravan conducted by Muhammad. As it approached its termination point, an errant patch of cloud appeared on the horizon, blocking momentarily the sun's rays from reaching the earth. Seizing the opportunity, she shouted to her maids and exclaimed: "Behold! It is the beloved of Allah, (i.e. the same deity of Ka'aba the pagans called "Allah") who sent two angels to watch over him!"

Her maids strained their eyes and looked out as far as they could see in an effort to locate the angels, but they saw none. Having inkling of their mistress's passionate feelings towards her heartthrob, Muhammad, they joined hands with her, and repeated loudly what she had told them. The purpose behind such an exercise was to boost Muhammad's image, through publicizing, what Khudeija had made out to be a divine favor as well as to warn her uncle of the consequences from heaven should he reject Muhammad's proposal to marry his niece.

Thus creating a ground that going to support her cause, she wished to waste no time and offered herself secretly in marriage to Muhammad through her trusted slave, Maisara. Muhammad had been waiting for such a miracle to happen, and when he got the offer, he accepted it without wasting any time. The major success thus achieved, he, as the Arabian tradition required, needed to make a formal proposal of marriage to Khudeija's uncle Amr ibn Assad who acted then as her guardian, her father having been previously killed in a sacrilegious war.

The Arabian marriage traditions vastly differed from the ones observed by the non-Arab Muslims of the present day. Under the Arab tradition practiced even today, the groom has to propose the marriage to his would-be bride through her parents or guardians, and if they accept the offer, the groom is required to pay dowers to this betrothed's parents or guardians in order to enable him to marry their daughter or ward. Arabian marriages do not involve religious sanctions. Contrary to the Arabian tradition, the non-Arab Muslim brides are required to pay dowers to their grooms and marriages are solemnized, with religion playing a major part.

Following their tradition, Abu Taleb and Hamza, two of Muhammad's uncles, accompanied their nephew to Khudeija's house, where she secretly arranged a party. She had not, it seems, broken the news to her uncle; she intentionally kept him unaware of the significance of the occasion. In the presence of all men, Muhammad sought from Amr ibn Assad his niece Khudeija's hand in marriage, hearing which the old man flew into a rage and declined the union. He explained that everything was against such an idea: Muhammad's age, the fact that he was in Khudeija's employment and, above all, he did not have enough money to justify his marriage with a wealthy lady. In his mind, the marriage meant dispersing her wealth, instead of keeping it in her family. Subsequent events proved that the old man was right in his thinking.

Khudeija had anticipated such a situation and had prepared herself to handle it in a favorable manner. She methodically plied her uncle with wine until he was drunk. On cue, Abu Taleb delivered a forceful speech, laying out all the splendid qualities that his nephew supposedly possessed. After him, Khudeija herself made a fiery speech, describing how the angels had protected him from heat, and also eulogizing all the deeds that Muhammad had performed for her and the family. In the end, she exhorted her uncle to recognize Muhammad's favors, and to accept him as his son-in-law.

Following Khudeija's speech, all present prompted Amr ibn Assad to respond to it.
Before he knew what all was about, he made a speech approving the marriage. Waraqa ibn Nofal promptly seconded; whereupon, Muhammad at once clothed the old man in the robe, which according to the Arabian tradition, a son-in-law gave his father-in-law at a wedding. Khudeija immediately had the contract of marriage drawn and signed, signifying the conclusion of the marriage before her uncle could realize that he was duped and declared the marriage void. This marriage is believed to have taken place in 595 A.D., when Muhammad was twenty-five and his bride forty years old.

The incident narrated concerning Khudeija's marriage with Muhammad deserves a special focus, not only because it was a milestone in the life of the future prophet of Islam, but also because it illustrates the position occupied by women in pre-Islamic Arabia. We have noted that Khudeija was an independent woman who ran her own business and it was she, not her future husband, who had first proposed the marriage. Apart from her, we also know that there were other women in pre-Islamic days who not only took part in the affairs of Mecca by the side of their men, they also participated in business ventures without having their men involved in them. They, moreover, often exercised considerable influence as prophetesses or as poetesses.

At the annual fairs in the neighborhood of Mecca, particularly at the fair of Oqhad, women are known to have entered along with men in poetic contests and recited their price-winning poems before the public.

The above observations provide us a glimpse of the extent of freedom that the women of Arabia enjoyed before the dawn of Islam and negate the claim of the Muslim doctors who tell us that it was Islam, which granted them the freedom with which they have been living their lives in our modern world. In reality, the contrary is the fact. It is, in truth, Islam, which has snatched away much of women's previous freedom and liberties, and made them slaves to the whims and fancies of their men.

 

MUHAMMAD'S LIFE STYLE AFTER HIS MARRIAGE WITH KHUDEIJA
 


As Muhammad expected, his marriage with Khudeija changed his life. It placed him among the most wealthy and influential of his native city. He was no more a servant; to the contrary, he came the owner of his wife's wealth and business. People began to respect him. They also allowed him to participate in both their casual and formal meetings, a privilege that was denied him before on account of his circumstances.
During this time, he lived in a household where the resident oracle influenced him greatly in his religious opinions. This was his wife's cousin Waraqa ibn Nofal, a man of speculative mind and flexible faith; originally a Jew, subsequently a Christian, at the same time, being a pretender of astrology.

After the marriage, Muhammad continued to work for his wife as before but now with a freedom that afforded him much time to build his image among the people. To achieve his mission, he carried himself well socially. He succeeded in establishing himself as a role model among the people, not only by dispensing favors but also by dealing with them even-handedly in situations that offered him the sought after opportunities to get himself involved. Herein, we shall describe a crisis that involved the Meccan people and which, we are told, he helped resolve amicably thereby earning for himself the admiration of the people.

In 605 A.D., when Muhammad was thirty-five years old, the people of Quraish decided to roof the Ka'aba, which, it appears, had hitherto consisted of only four walls with no covering on top. An examination of the masonry revealed that the existing walls were too weak to support the weight of a roof, whereupon, the Meccans decided to demolish the entire structure, and, in its place, to build a new edifice with a roof on top of it. After building the walls, the people faced the dilemma of finding the wooden planks and a carpenter to make the roof, for neither of these two existed at the time in the entire land of Arabia.

During their plight, it so happened that a ship, belonging to a Greek merchant wrecked, possibly on the coral reefs of Jeddah. This accident provided the desperate Meccans with the ship's timbers for the roof, which an Egyptian Copt. Carpenter, who happened to be in Mecca at the time, undertook to erect at their behest.

The story of roofing the Ka'aba brings to light an important aspect of the Meccan life of the time. The fact that the temple itself had no roof bolsters the position of those who maintain that since the "House of God" had, in all probability, consisted merely of tents surrounded by walls, the Meccans of the time must also have lived, out of compulsion, in homes built without roofs.

A large black stone, possibly a meteorite, had been built into the wall of the primitive Ka'aba. The Meccans as well as the pagan pilgrims regarded it with peculiar veneration. When the building of the walls reached the level at which the black stone had formerly been planted, each of the clans of the Quraish demanded the privilege of placing the stone back in its original position. Excited and heated debate ensued, and an outbreak of violence, bordering on bloodshed, seemed imminent.

At this juncture, Abu Umaiya of the clan of Bani Makhzoom, said to be the oldest man of the tribe of Quraish, came up with a suggestion. He proposed that all present should agree that the first man who entered the court of the Ka'aba from that moment on should be asked to judge the dispute. All agreed and began to await the arrival of such a man.

A few minutes later, they saw Muhammad entering the sacred premises. Informed of the pact that the Meccans had agreed to, he called for a cloak, spread it on the ground and laid the black stone upon it. He then asked one representative of every clan to take hold of the edge of the cloak and to raise the stone together to the required height. Once this was done, he, with his own hands, laid the stone in position in the wall, thus resolving a deadly issue with a brilliant presence of mind.

This episode is said to have enhanced his stature and esteem, prompting people to refer their disputes to him for resolution.

 

THE CALL FROM GOD

 

In the period following Muhammad's marriage with Khudeija but before the commencement of his preaching of the oneness of God, many religiously sensitive men in Mecca are said to have withdrawn from the idol worshipping of Ka'aba. Prominent among them were: 1. Waraqa ibn Nofal, 2. Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, 3. Uthman ibn al-Huwayrith and 4. Zaid ibn Amr. Many other pagans also converted to monotheism with the realization that their people had corrupted the religion of their father Abraham and that the stones they circled around were of no account. In conclusion, they wished to see a change in form and substance of their antiquated religion. Others, having grown disillusioned with Judaism and Christianity, went their ways in the search elsewhere in the land, seeking Hanifiya, the pure religion of Abraham (Ibn Ishaq, op. cit. p. 99)

They were particularly interested in seeing Hanifiya introduced once again, for the reason that they believed that when Abraham, their distant forefather, had control over the House of God, he shared its income with all of Mecca's people, thus helping many among them avoid hunger and destitution.  The present custodians were selfish, who not only ate up all its income, they also maintained a constant grip on their extra religious activities. They wanted all injustices and restrictions from the Ka'aba's custodians to end.

The manipulative and opportunistic Waraqa ibn Nofal, having observed the Meccan's suffering and disenchantment with idol worshipping, felt confident, at this stage, in introducing his doctrine of One God as well as the concept of resurrection. As he could not do it himself, he began looking for someone from among the influential tribes of Mecca to undertake the mission on his behalf. He consulted his sister Khudeija, and both of them found a candidate in their midst by the name of Muhammad Mustafa, who fulfilled the criteria both of them considered necessary to accomplish the arduous and risky task. Upon confiding in him, they found him more than willing to oblige them with his cooperation - - - not merely for their sake but for his own cause as well, for he himself cherished a dream to dislodge the Ka'aba's custodians from their positions by introducing monotheism together with reining in the Meccan trading community, whom he considered to be a selfish and greedy bunch of despicable people.

Since his marriage with Khudeija, Muhammad had plenty of time to reflect on what he had heard and learned during his caravan journeys and also from the people he had the opportunity of mingling with when they came to Mecca, either on pilgrimage or for trade. The indoctrination of the hermit Bahira also recurred in his mind, giving him the conviction that the idolatrous pagans should be made to worship only one true Allah, whose nemesis already lived in the form of a statue in the Ka'aba and that this Allah should rule their hearts and minds as well. Muhammad picked up the name Allah to represent his lone God for the reason that the pagans were already acquainted with this God, making it thus unnecessary for him to explain afresh his nature and attributes to them.

Thus determined, Muhammad proceeded to implement his concepts and doctrines, most of which he borrowed from Judaism and Christianity, and haphazardly stored in his memory. His own preparations notwithstanding, he recognized the fact that his mission was going to present him with enormous challenges, to overcome which, he wished to learn more about the Jewish Torah as well as about the Christian Scriptures. He also desired to know as much as was possible about the Talmud and Midrash traditions, then current among the Jewish groups. Waraqa concurred, and they decided that they should begin the teaching and learning process forthwith.
The process could not be begun form Muhammad's or Waraqa's home, lest it be known to other people of the city. Muhammad, perhaps, influenced by those Christian hermits whom, he had seen on his trips to Syria, living in caves, chose one of the caves of Mount Hira for achieving their purpose. Muhammad and Waraqa took to spending most of their time in the cave, often, joined by Khudeija, who, as we have noted earlier, was known to have studied the Gospels at the urging of her cousin, Waraqa. Waraqa found his student to have an uncommonly retentive memory and a voracious appetite for learning. He poured out all the knowledge of Midrash and Talmud that he had, knowing fully well that Muhammad, during the propagation of his faith, would have to depend heavily on what he taught him before the commencement of his mission.


 

 

Part-4


While the educational process and training was continuing, Waraqa recognized the fact that he alone could not prepare Muhammad fully for the momentous mission he was soon to embark upon and that if he wanted to see his surrogate succeed, he then must seek the help of one whose erudition on the subjects he was imparting to his student was superior to his own.

Waraqa knew a monk by the name of Adas; some say his name was Suhaib ibn Sinan, who was well versed in the desired subjects, but spoke in Hebrew. Waraqa, himself knowing Hebrew well, enlisted his help, and both of them began teaching Muhammad all that they knew about the Jewish and Christian religions.

Perhaps, the Quran eluded to this same monk Adas or Suhaib (16:103; also see N. J. Dawood's The Koran, p. 195)), while refuting the pagans, who accused Muhammad of being taught all that he spoke of, including the details of heaven and hell, by a human being and not, as he claimed, by God.

 

FIRST REVELATION
 


Muhammad continued the process of his learning for a long time; some say, without substantiating their claim, for fifteen years. Then suddenly one night in the month of Ramadhan, in the year 610 A. D., when he was forty years of age, he declared that he received revelations from God, and that the deity appointed him his last Prophet and Messenger on earth.

The age forty has a great significance for Muslims. The Quran declares that, upon reaching the age of forty, they should pray to God and thank him for the favors he has bestowed on them and their parents and also that they should do good works that will please him. The Quran requires Muslims to be kind to their parents, for the reason that their mothers bear them with much pain, and with much pain they bring them to the world. It also requires them to be kind and thankful to their parents (46:15); it does not, however, require them to love their parents for what they did to them before and after their birth.

One Muslim school of thought reports that Muhammad had told his wife, Khudeija, that while he was in the cavern, angel Gabriel appeared before him "in a dazzling human form" (R. V. C. Bodley, op.cit. p. 56) and ordered him to "recite in the name of thy Lord" (96:1). The Quran tells the Muslims that all angels can fly, each of them having at least a pair of wings (35:1), except for Gabriel, who is said to have six hundred of them (Maulana Mufti Muhammad Shafi, Tafsir Ma'ariful Quran, p. 764).
Muhammad appears to have repudiated later his aforesaid statement when he said the following through the Quran:

Say: Whoever is an enemy
To Gabriel - - - for he brings down
The (revelation) to thy heart
By God's will, a confirmation
Of what went before,
And guidance and glad tidings
For those who believe, - (2:97).

This verse implies clearly that what the Quran contains are the words that angel Gabriel had imparted to Muhammad through his heart and also suggests that the angel had never appeared to him in person. Accordingly, we may conclude safely that the contents of the Quran are Muhammad's own words, which he used to describe the "inspiration" that the angel, at God's command, had put in his heart, or should we say, in his mind?

The mode of revelation notwithstanding, Muhammad, similar of the ancient Hebrew prophets before him - - - who were often reluctant to utter the words of God - - - and protesting that he was unschooled, refused to comply with Gabriel's order (Karen Armstrong, A History of God, p. 137). A storied hadith (Muhammad's words) attributed to his youngest wife, Aisha, recounts that Gabriel pressed Muhammad's chest against his own three times (Martin Lings, op. cit. p. 43) in order to make him follow his orders. Instantly, he felt his understanding illumined with celestial light and he read the first five verses of the Sura or chapter, called Iqraa (Sura 96), written on a banner that he saw hanging at the edge of the nearest sky to earth. When he finished the perusal, the heavenly Messenger announced, "Oh, Muhammad, of a verity, thou art the Prophet of God! and I am his angel Gabriel!"

After the incident, we are told, Muhammad was much horrified to think that he might have become a mere disrespectable kahin, whom people consulted, if one of their camels went missing. A Jinn, one of the spirits who were thought to haunt the deserts and who could be capricious and lead people into error, supposedly possessed a kahin. Poets also believed that their personal Jinn possessed them.
Thus Hasan ibn Thabit, a poet of Medina who later became a Muslim and Muhammad's personal poet-laureate, says that when he received his poetic vocation, his personal Jinn had appeared to him and, throwing him to the ground, forced the inspired words from his mouth.

This was the only form of inspiration that was familiar to Muhammad, and the thought that he might have become a majnoon (Jinni-possessed) filled him with despair that he no longer wished to live (Karen Armstrong, op. cit. p. 137 ff). His wife, Khudeija, reportedly talked him out of his suicidal intention.

It was at a much later stage that God told Muhammad that he had deputed him not only as a prophet for men, he also had given him the responsibility to convert the errant Jinns (Washington Irving, op. cit. p. 71) to the righteous path of Islam, a task that God certified Muhammad to have fulfilled to his fullest satisfaction.

The Muslim belief that Muhammad had a physical encounter with angel Gabriel is more of a myth than a fact. It was concocted by the later days Muslims in order to boost his credential as a prophet. Not only many cynical people disbelief it, even many Muslim scholars discount this alleged involvement of the angel with Muhammad as being nothing but an imaginative falsehood of some of the zealots of the Islamic faith.

Professor Fazlur Rahman is one among the prominent Muslim scholars, who repudiates the alleged affair without any hesitation. He maintains that Muhammad did not encounter Gabriel in the flesh and that the contents of the Quran are the result of his internal mystical experience, generated in his heart (or mind?) by God's inspiration (4:163) "in a state of vision or quasi-dream." Muhammad himself, Rahman continues, had characterized the state in which he received his revelations by saying, "Then I woke up," implying clearly that Muhammad had received his first and all other subsequent revelations in dreams. In this connection, Rahman states, "This idea of the externality of the angel and the Revelation has become so ingrained in the general Muslim mind that the real picture is anathema to it," emphasizing, at the same time, the fact that "a religion cannot lie on purely spiritualized dogmas and {that} reification is necessary even if only to serve the purpose of a vessel for the spirit" (Islam, p.13).

Rahman's position differs somewhat from a hadith attributed to Hadhrat Zubair. Muhammad is reported to have told him that while he was in the cave of Hira, he heard a voice calling him by name and declaring him the prophet of God. He searched all around but found no one. He then looked up and saw an angel floating between the earth and sky (53:6-11 & 81:23).

Convulsing with extreme fear, Muhammad ran home. His wife Khudeija tended to him and wrapped him up in a mantle. After a while, angel Gabriel appeared at his home and commanded him to "Arise and deliver thy warning, O thou wrapped up!" According to this hadith, Sura or chapter Muddaththir (Sura 74) was the first Sura that was revealed to Muhammad and not Sura Iqraa (Sura 96), as believed by the majority of Muslims.

Contrary to the aforesaid hadith, the majority of Muhammad's biographers concede that he received all of his revelations from God, either in dream or during seizures.
During the painful episodes of seizures, Muhammad heard balls ringing in his ears and pearl-sized drops of perspiration trickled from his body even during the winter (Martin Ling, op. cit, p. 245). When fully recovered, he narrated the contents of the vision.

Those observations of Muhammad's behavior are indicative of the fact that he suffered from epilepsy or schizophrenia, two medical conditions that were a mystery to the people of his time. Dr. Gustav Weil, in a note to Muhammad der Prophet, discusses the question of Muhammad's being subject to attacks of epilepsy, a physical condition, which has generally been represented as a slander, concocted by his enemies, as well as by the Christian writers. His ailment appears, however, to have been asserted by some of the oldest Muslim biographers, now labeled as "hired biographers" by some modern Muslim writers (Dr. Rafiq Zakaria, Muhammad and the Quran); it having been established as being a genuine assertion on the authority of other writers, who were contemporaneous to their time.  He would be seized, they said, with violent trembling followed by a kind of swoon or, more accurately, convulsion, during which perspiration would stream from his forehead in the coldest weather; he would lie with his eyes closed, foaming at the mouth, and bellowing like a young camel.

Aisha, one of his wives, and Zaid, on of his disciples, are among the persons cited as testifying to that effect. They regarded the seizures at such times as being under the influence of a revelation. He is believed to have similar attacks, however, in Mecca before he became a prophet, and at a time when God was not supposed to give him any revelation.

Unaware of Muhammad's medical condition, Khudeija feared that he must have been possessed by an evil Jinn's spirits, and wanted to solicit the aid of a conjuror to exorcise them, but Muhammad forbade her. He did not like anyone to see him during those paroxysms.

The epileptic attacks did not always precede his visions. Harith ibn Hashem, it is narrated, once asked him in what manner he received his revelations. "Often," Muhammad replied, "the angel appears to me in a human form, and speaks to me. Sometimes I hear sounds like the tinkling of a bell, but see nothing. (Ringing in the ears is a symptom of epilepsy).

When the invisible angel has departed, I am possessed of what he has revealed." Some of his revelations, he professed, reached him directly form God, others in dreams; for the dreams of prophets, he used to say, are revelations (Washington Irving, op.cit, p.43 & 44).

 

THE PREACHING
 


After Muhammad came home with the news that God ordained him his prophet, it was his wife, Khudeija, who not only comforted him in his fear, but she also feigned to have believed in what he had told her - - - thereby becoming the first person to convert to the new faith of Islam. To accelerate the success of her husband's mission, she even phrased the words of the Kalima Tayyaba, by invoking which, a non-Muslim instantly becomes a Muslim (Khalid Latif Gauba, The Prophet of the Desert, p. 33). The kalima, coined by Khudeija, reads: La Ilaha-ill-Allah, Muhammad-ur-Rasul-Allah, meaning: There is no god but Allah and Muhammad is his messenger.

Waraqa ibn Nofal, her aged cousin, also played his pre-arranged role. Using his scholarly authority, he declared that what his surrogate had claimed was not only true but he was, moreover, the same prophet whose impending arrival was foretold by other religious scriptures, thereby ensuring Muhammad's success. His support of Muhammad notwithstanding, Waraqa never accepted Islam and died a Christian.

Following Khudeija, others who converted to Islam were: 1. Ali ibn Abu Taleb. He was a ten-old cousin of Muhammad who lived under his care and who, later on, married his daughter Fatima. 2. Zaid ibn Harith, a young freed slave whom Muhammad, for some time, had adopted as his son and came to be known as Abu Zaid, father of Zaid. 3. Abdullah Atik ibn Abu Kahafa, who is universally known as Abu Baker, "the father of the virgin she-camel," a title he earned after he let a 50 plus year-old Muhammad marry his six year-old infant daughter. He was one of Muhammad's closest friends. 4. Abdu Amr, son of Awf, a distant kinsman of Muhammad's mother, Amina and 5. Abu Ubaydah, son of al-Jarrah, who belonged to the clan of Bani al-Harith.

As Muhammad was already convinced that the early stage of his mission was going to be perilous, he planned to take his early steps in secrecy. He apprehended hostility on every side: from his immediate kindred, the Quraishites of the line of Hashim whose power and prosperity Muhammad identified not only with idolatry, but also with their greed and selfishness, and still more from the rival line of Abd Shams, who were ever ready to dispossess the Hashemites of the guardianship of Ka'aba, which generated great amounts of revenue for its keepers. Abu Sofian, son of Harb and a grandson of Omaya, as well as the great-grandson of Abd Shams, headed the later group of the rivals. He was an able and ambitious man; said to have great wealth and influence over the people of Mecca. For Muhammad, he proved, for some time, to be a redoubtable opponent.

Accordingly, he began propagating his new religion slowly, and discreetly, insomuch that for the first three years the number of his converts did not exceed forty; those, for the most part, being young persons, strangers, and the downtrodden slaves.

For his followers, Muhammad introduced the three daily prayers, which he borrowed from the old pagan rites. Fearing ridicule from the pagans to the manner in which he wanted his followers to perform their prayer, he held his prayer congregation in private, either in the house of one of the initiated, or in a cave near the city of Mecca. His secrecy, however, did not, for long, protect him from the pagans' outrage.

The pagans discovered Muhammad's secret meetings; in one of them, a rabble broke out and a scuffle ensued. In it, Saad, a Muslim, wounded one of the pagan opponents of his faith. This, feat on his part, earned him the first place among all the Muslims, who shed blood in the cause of Islam. The discovery of his meeting place and the consequential solicitude to which he found himself subjected, sapped Muhammad's spirits and increased the perturbation of his mind. He looked worn out and haggard, with abstraction having overtaken his hitherto mental sharpness. His associates noticed his altered mien and dreaded an attack of illness; his pagan distracters scoffingly accused him of mental hallucination and rejected his call to embrace his faith.

Abu Bakr and Uthman enjoyed strong protection from their clans. As a result of this, they never faced any violence from the pagans, despite the fact that they had become Muslim a long time ago, and accompanied Muhammad on every trip he made to preach his religion. Even the young Ali was neither harassed nor treated harshly either by the children of his age, or by the elders for having become a Muslim at his tender age.

The small community of the Meccan Christians maintained a position of neutrality, being confident that since Muhammad was married to one of them, and who wielded considerable influence on him, he would not harm them, if he won his struggle, nor would his opponents cause them any trouble, should they be able to defeat him, for the reason that they were never a cause of concern for their overwhelmingly large neighbors. They were absolutely right. Muhammad never appeared to them as a threat, rather, he not only declared them to be in love with the Muslims (5:85), he also provided them with protection by declaring them Muslims (5:114).

After brooding silently over the problem his campaign faced for some time and, on being prodded by Khudeija and Waraqa, Muhammad threw off all his reserves, and displaying greater enthusiasm, began to go about openly proclaiming his doctrines, and presenting himself as a prophet, sent by God to put an end to idolatry as well as to mitigate the rigors of the Jewish and Christian laws. The hills of Safa and Marwa, sanctified by the traditions of Hagar and Ishmael, became his preaching grounds, and the Mount of Hira his sanctuary, where he retired when overtaken by the pagans' tortuous interrogations, only to return from it, after preparing himself with new arguments and pronouncements, which he always tried to pass off as being "revelations from God."

Unimpressed, the pagans continued to ridicule him for assuming an apostolic character. Those who had seen him as a boy about the streets of Mecca, and afterwards, occupied in all ordinary concerns of life, felt greatly hurt by his insulting remarks on their ancestral religion as well as on their intellect, which he considered to be inferior to that of his own. They also resented his insolent attitude towards those who mattered in the Meccan society, but whom he deemed to be his enemy.

Furthermore, he belittled them by claiming that only he knew all that that existed in heaven. Additionally, to add salt to their injury, he created an atmosphere of enmity in Mecca, which separated a son from his parents, and a brother from his siblings. As if not satisfied with the extent of havoc that he already wrought upon their blood relationship, he was depriving them of their livelihood as well by creating the turmoil, which, in its own turn, was discouraging people from visiting Mecca, either on call of trade or on pilgrimage.

Despite the fact that Muhammad had torn apart all the fabrics of their social and religious lives, the pagans are not known to have ever demonstrated any violence against his person. They never abused him, nor did they ever try to cause him bodily harm. One of the retaliations they occasionally subjected him to was their sneer. Seeing him pass them, they used to exclaim, " Behold the grandson of Abd al Mutallib, who pretends to know what is going on in heaven!"  Some, who had witnessed his fits of mental excitement, called him insane; few others declared that he was possessed by a devil, and some accused him of practicing sorcery and magic. On a particular occasion, some pagans are reported also to have thrown on his body a bundle of dirt, which caused him no injury or pain. But when the pagans failed, even after employing the above gentle methods to prevent him from insulting their gods and religion, they did not turn violent against him; instead, they commissioned a poet to counter his moves with his poetic lampoons.

The poet engaged by the pagans was none other than the youthful Amru ibn al-Aass. His mother was a prostitute (we have mentioned her earlier in our presentation), who practiced her profession in Mecca. She was a very beautiful woman, whose list of paramours included all the nobles of the city who existed in the tribe of Quraish. When she gave birth to Amru, all of her lovers laid their equal claim on the paternity of the child. As the newborn most resembled Aass, he received the designation of ibn al-Aass, the son of Aass.

Nature was very kind to the child. He had all the qualities of a genius. At an early age, he became one of the most popular poets of Arabia People distinguished him for the pungency of his satirical compositions, which he delivered with a captivating sweetness. He was a delight for his listeners, who paid close attention to what he had to say in his poems.

Pitted against Muhammad, Amru made great efforts in countering his proselytizing campaigns with lampoons and humorous madrigals. The captivating effect of his compositions, already imprinted on their minds, people not only circulated them widely, they also carried them to distant places. People's involuntary action, though, proved to be a temporary setback for Muhammad, but, in the end, even Amru's effusions failed to stop him from carrying out his proselytizing campaigns.

Those of the pagans who had traits of neutrality in their character demanded of Muhammad supernatural proofs of what he asserted. His reply may be gathered from his words in the Quran; it being evasive to the point that he did not hesitate to designate the Quran as being a miracle from God. Unsatisfied, they demanded palpable evidence, miracles addressed to the senses, that he should cause the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the blind to see, or the dead to rise. Muhammad, as usual, not only avoided those demands, he also denounced them for the same. At the same time, he threatened them with dire consequences from God, if they persisted in what he considered to be their unjustified demands.

Al Maalem, an Arabian writer, recorded that some of Muhammad's disciples at one time joined with the pagan multitude in their demand for miracles, and besought him to prove at once the divinity of his mission by turning the hill of Safa into gold. Being thus closely urged, he took to prayer; and after finishing it, assured his followers as well his opponents that the angel Gabriel had appeared to him, and informed him that should God grant his prayer and work the desired miracle, all those who disbelieved would be exterminated. In pity to the multitude, he implored God not to cause the miracle thus permitting the hill of Safa to remain in its pristine state. He continued to insist that the Quran was his miracle and that beyond it; he had no power to perform additional miracles to satisfy their incredulity.


Part-5



We have reached, in our narrative, the fifth year of Muhammad's mission. From time to time, he did face the pagans' opposition to his preaching, but they had never succeeded in shutting him off completely. In spite of enjoying an almost unrestricted freedom to engage himself in his proselytizing activities, Muhammad, it seems, had not been able to secure more than sixty to seventy converts over such a long period of time.

At this stage, we want to digress from our narrative, and visualize what stressful days Muhammad must have been passing, after being in his mission for five devastating years, in the religiously charged atmosphere of Mecca. 

As we have mentioned earlier in this presentation, it was Khudeija, who, along with her cousin, had commissioned Muhammad to found in Mecca a religion that was intended to establish the unity of a single God. He had undertaken the mission not only for his wife's sake, but also for his own reasons, which we have stated earlier, being assured that she was going to put her entire wealth at his disposal so that he could use it for achieving their common goal.

For five years, Muhammad lived on his wife's wealth. He also used it to feed most of the new Muslims, many among whom were slaves and the downtrodden. A good part of her wealth also had to be used as bribes for those pagans who were inclined towards Islam, but refrained from converting to it. In short, he used his wife's bequeathed wealth for all the purposes he considered necessary for achieving what he had set out to achieve five years ago.

But when his resources were almost exhausted, with him taking no part in trade activities for a long time to recoup his wife's expanded wealth, he began to feel the crunch that invariably follows such a situation. He, therefore, began to search for the ways through which he could reduce the pressure on his depleting coffer.

To understand what Muhammad might have been thinking to ease pressure over his ever-decreasing resource, we need to consider certain conditions that were prevailing in the Arabian society at that period of time. We have mentioned that Muhammad had initially launched his movement to force the pagans to worship a lone Allah. It was followed by his attack on the rich merchants of Mecca because of the reason that they prided in their wealth and refused to share their privileges with the poor, orphan and the needy. Though the latter issue had won him some support from the common folks, yet he could not have neglected the crippling effect that it had produced in the lives of the people he sought to help. It was in the background of this situation that Muhammad had, at one stage, come up with a reconciliatory plan, aimed at appeasing his opponents. Not fully realizing the implication of his plan, he announced that he accepted the divinity of the "Lord of the House," whom the pagans worshipped in the form of a statue they had installed in the Ka'aba. He followed this concession by permitting his followers to worship the idols of al-Lat, al-Uzza and al-Manat together with the pagans. They were exuberant, thinking that their days of polemics and hardship were over. But their happiness did not last long, and they realized it very soon. To the Muslims, the last concession is known as "Gharaniq." According to one Muslim writer, it had taken place in Mecca in late 5th or early 6th year of his preaching (Dr. Majid Ali Khan, The Holy Verses, pp.32-37).

He had adopted the reconciliatory policies to ease the difficulties of the poorer section of the Meccan population so that he could continue to have their support. He, however, withdraw the concession, claiming it to have been a Satanic act, when he realized that by authorizing the pagans to worship their idols, he had retracted his stand on the issue of absolute monotheism, thus jeopardized his claim of prophethood as well. To extract himself from the alleged faux pas, he put the blame on the Satan, who, he said, had put the words of the declaration in his mouth, despite him having had obtained full protection from God in order to protect himself from the devil's influence. The reversal of his later policy did not bode well with the pagans, and they were infuriated. Considering Muhammad's retraction as an act of betrayal, they decided to oppose his religion more vigorously. Had Muhammad not had his uncle Abu Talib's protection, they might even have caused him bodily harm.

The fiasco and the atmosphere of distrust created by the abrogation of his compromising announcements notwithstanding, we must praise Muhammad's sense of pragmatism, which he always exhibited in all difficult times. To a great extent, this quality of his was responsible for making him, in the long run, a successful person.

Encouraged by his pragmatic thoughts, he decided to send a delegation of neo-
Muslims to Abyssinia in 615 A.D., probably, with the following objectives in his mind:

In the last five years, his achievements, if any, were dismal. In the same period, he saw the pagan opposition to his cause growing. He also saw his resources depleting, with no recourse being available to him to replenish them. Although Abu Talib's protection had shielded him from his opponents, but he saw many of his followers, who had no social status or protection, undergoing physical torture at the hands of their masters, or employers. Moreover, he, too, had failed to provide gainful employment to those who had forsaken their jobs, and became his disciples.

Consequently, he sensed a suppressed disaffection taking hold of his followers. He, therefore, needed to divert their attention to a different direction. He also needed to take steps not only to invigorate his followers' faith in his leadership, but also to contain his opponents' hostility to his cause.

With the stated objectives in mind, Muhammad began to explore possibilities in right earnest. While carrying on with his exploration, he came to know much about Abyssinia. He learned that a Christian ruled it, and that he was tolerant of other religions. He also learned that the Negus harbored an ambition on Mecca, and that he was not in favor of the Persians spreading their net of influence over the citadel of pagan worship.

In the final analysis, Abyssinia appeared to Muhammad to be a perfect country of choice to which he decided to turn for help. Accordingly, he prepared and dispatched a delegation of his followers to Abyssinia. It consisted of eleven members, including Ruqayyah, his daughter. Uthman, her husband, was appointed its leader.
We assume that Muhammad had charged the leader of the delegation to achieve the following objectives:

1. Muhammad was aware that the Abyssinians were eager to regain their lost dominion of Arabia; and also that to help their Byzantium allies who had just suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Persians, they were willing to listen to any ideas that were likely to divert their enemy's attention. Capitalizing on the Abyssinians' focus, the delegation was to convince the Negus to attack Mecca and to take over its administration. Other members of the delegation had instructions to narrate, in Negus' court, horrible stories of how their pagan masters were not only torturing them, but also how they were starving them to death. Being convinced, should the Negus take over Mecca, he was to choose Muhammad to become its ruler. His ascension to power would have helped him in achieving all his objectives easily, and in a shorter period of time.

2. Should the Negus refuse to do what Muhammad wished him to do, the leader and his wife were to return to Mecca, leaving behind the rest of his delegation members in Abyssinia. The "refugees" were expected to find jobs among the people who were tolerant towards the people of other religions. This latter scheme had a two-fold purpose: Their staying back in Abyssinia not only would have made them beyond the reach of their masters' torture, it would also have freed Muhammad from the responsibility, which required him to meet the demands of their livelihood.

3. Those of his followers, who had mercantile background, were to explore the likelihood of developing aggressive business connections with the Abyssinian people, which, if materialized, would have greatly undermined the monopolistic position of the pagan niggards.

4. The continuous presence of Muhammad's disciples in Abyssinia would have created a base there for Muhammad himself. Should he ever had felt unsafe in Mecca, he could easily have gone over to Abyssinia and live safely among his disciples. From here, he could plot and try to take over Mecca at an opportune time in future.

The Meccans suspected what Muhammad wanted to achieve by sending a group of his people to Abyssinia. As its result, the Meccans had his mission followed by a mission of their own. It was charged with the responsibility of countering the Muslim allegations against them and to have them expelled by the Negus.

After hearing both the parties, Negus declined the Muslim request of invading Mecca, but allowed them to live in his country. The pagans were happy with his decision.
Contrary to what we have stated above, most Muslim writers maintain that the Muslims had migrated to Abyssinia only to escape from the persecution of their enemies. This, though, is partly true, but not the whole truth. In support of our hypothesis, we submit the following:

At the time we are talking about here, there was no police or law enforcing agencies in the whole of the Arabian Peninsula. But the lack of these agencies, however, did not mean that the nomads and the sedentary Arabs had no rules to govern certain aspects of their lives. In fact, they did have rules, which regulated their conducts.
The Arabs had, over a long period of time, developed a system of protection, which a particular tribe or clan gave to its members. Without having protection, it was impossible for anyone to survive in the harsh environments of the desert. This particular system of protection had made it dangerous for a man to lay his hands on a member of another tribe or clan. If any member of a clan attacked a protected member of another clan, the victim's clan exacted vengeance or a blood-wit from the clan of the offending person. This system worked well for the Arabs and it helped them keep incidences of death through violence under control. It was this clan protection, which his uncle Abu Talib made use of, to protect Muhammad from the pagans' physical assault. When his uncle died, Muhammad had to obtain the protection of Mutim Ibn Adi, the chief of the Nofal clan of Quraish.  Without his protection, Muhammad could not have survived in Mecca.

Uthman Ibn Affan, who headed the Muslim delegation to Abyssinia, had, and enjoyed, the full protection of his clan. It was on account of this fact that he was never manhandled or assaulted by his enemies. Moreover, it is claimed that he had an independent source of income that supported his as well as his family members' lives. When he faced no threat to his life, and had a secured means of livelihood at his disposal, what had made him and his wife to migrate to Abyssinia must not be a very difficult matter for us to understand. And our understanding is: Muhammad had chosen Uthman and his wife to represent him before the Negus of Abyssinia, and to try to achieve those tasks, which we have mentioned in the foregoing paragraphs of this presentation.

In Mecca, meanwhile, Muhammad continued the propagation of his faith and kept on trying to win converts to his faith. The pagans took all peaceful steps to deter him from propagating his anti-pagan faith, but they failed to achieve their objective.

Frustrated, they passed a decree banishing him, and all who embraced his faith. Sensing the ferocity of the impending storm, Muhammad took refuge in the house of a disciple named Orkham. His house was situated on the hill of Safa. This hill was renowned in Arabian tradition as being the place at which Adam and his wife (Quranic reference to Eve who is not mentioned in it by a name) lived together, having previously been reunited at the plains of Arafat after their long solitary wandering all about the earth, following their expulsion from Paradise. It was, likewise, connected in tradition with the story of Hagar, Abraham's concubine, and her son Ishmael.

Muhammad remained in his sanctuary for a month, continuing his revelations and drawing to him converts from various parts of Arabia. Eventually, the Quraishites caught hold of his whereabouts. He had an uncle by the name of Amru Ibn Hashim. The Quraishites had given him the name of Abu 'Ihoem, or Father of Wisdom, on account of his sagacity. The Muslims had changed it to Abu Jahl, Father of Folly, due to his opposition to his nephew, and Islam. The later appellation has remained stuck till these days to his name, who is seldom mentioned by zealous Muslims without the ejaculation, "May he be accursed of Allah!" This uncle sought him out, heaved insults in vituperative language, and even tried reportedly to maltreat him physically. His outrage was reported to Hamza, another uncle of Muhammad, as he was returning from his hunting trip. He was at that time not a Muslim, but was pledge-bound to protect his nephew.

Marching, with his bow in his hand, to the place where Abu Jahl was vaunting his recent triumph to some of the Quraishites, Hamza dealt him a blow that inflicted a grievous wound on his head. After some altercation that followed the attack, Hamza declared that he had right then become a Muslim and took the oath of adhesion to Muhammad instantaneously, thus greatly boosting the morale of his nephew.

Abu Jahl's prestige and esteem injured, he vowed to avenge the perpetrator. He had a nephew by the name of Omar Ibn al Khattab. He was twenty-six years of age, having a gigantic stature, a prodigious strength, and a great courage. He was reportedly so tall that even when seated, he dwarfed those who remained standing. Reputed to have been a heavy drinker, he was also known to beat his wife habitually. Instigated by his uncle Abu Jahl, this fierce man pledged to penetrate Muhammad's hideout and to inflict upon on him or on Hamza the injury that the latter had inflicted upon Abu Jahl.

On his way to Orkham's house, in which Hamza along with Muhammad was lodged, he met a Quraishite, to whom he disclosed his design. The Quraishite was a secret convert to Islam and sought to turn him away from his violent errand. He told him to check if anyone from his own family was guilty of heresy, before he went and harmed Muhammad or his uncle. Taken aback, he wanted to know who among his family members had renounced his ancestral religion. The informant gave Omar the names of his sister Amina and her husband Said.

Omar changed his course and hastened to his sister's dwelling. Entering it abruptly, it is said, he found his sister and her husband reading the Quran. Said attempted to conceal it, but his confusion convinced Omar of the truth of the accusation and heightened his fury. In his rage, he struck Said to the ground, placed his foot upon his chest, and would have plunged his sword into it had not his sister interposed. In his anger, he gave her a blow, which had her face bathed in blood.  "Enemy of Allah!" sobbed Amina; "dost thou strike me thus for believing in the only true Allah? In spite of thee and thy violence, I will preserve the true faith. "Yes," she added with fervor, "there is no allah but Allah, and Muhammad is His Prophet; and now, Omar, finish thy work!"

Repenting his violence, Omar paused and took his foot away from the chest of Said. "Show me the writing," said he. When the parchment containing the twentieth Sura or chapter of the Quran was given to him, he read it, and it sank into his heart. Moved greatly, especially by the parts, which dealt with resurrection and the judgment, he decided to embrace the religion of Islam without any delay.

Omar rushed to Orkham's house and, seeing Muhammad, expressed his desire to become a Muslim. Muhammad greeted him warmly and conducted him in the Muslim profession of faith; i.e. the invocation of Kalima Tayyaba, recitation of which completes one's induction into the faith of Islam.

Omar was not content until his conversion was publicly announced. At his request, Muhammad accompanied him instantly to the Ka'aba, to perform openly the rites of Islam. Omar walked on the left hand and Hamza on the right to protect him from injury or insult. It is said that about forty disciples accompanied the procession.
The story about Amina and Said having the Quran written on a parchment, and reading from it, is a concoction. In fact, during the time Muhammad was preaching Islam, the Arabs did not know that it existed even in Egypt, where the Egyptians were known to have extensively used it for preserving their writings.

Muslims got the encouragement to fabricate the parchment's story from verse 6:7 of the Quran. In it, Muhammad hypothesized that even if he had the Quran written on a parchment, which the pagans could see and touch, even then they would not only have denied its divine nature, they would also have rejected it as being "nothing but the obvious magic."

Unable to substantiate the content of the verse, one of the Muslim scholars has tried to explain it by claiming, " Qirtas, in the Apostle's life, could only mean "parchment," which was commonly used as writing materials in Western Asia from the 2nd century B.C. The word was derived from the Greek, Charles (Cf. Latin, "Charla"). Paper, as we know it, made from rags, was used by the Arabs after the conquest of Samarqand in 751 A. D. The Chinese had used it by the 2nd century B.C. The Arabs introduced it into Europe; it was used in Greece in the 11th and 12th century, and in Spain through Sicily in the 12th century. The Papyrus, made from an Egyptian reed, was used in Egypt as early as 2,500 B.C. It gave place to paper in Egypt in the 10th century (Abdullah Yusuf Ali, op.cit. vol.1, p. 290).

Because we hold the scholar's erudition in high esteem, we expected that instead of giving us the paper's history, he would tell us how the Arabs came to have parchment when they did not have reed, and also, why did they write down the revelations on skin, leaves and bones etc., when they, according to him, had access to this writing material?

The truth, perhaps, lies somewhere else. We suspect that Muhammad had seen the use of parchment in Syria during his business trips to that country, and impressed with its usage, he mentioned it to the pagans as a passing remark. Or, perhaps, the narrator added the word 'parchment' to the verse at the time the Quran was being compiled during Abu Bakr's regime.

Damascus in Syria was a modern city, and its populace highly literate, when Abu Bakr conquered it in 634 A. D. The Syrians were believed to have been among the first who invented the Arabic alphabets. The narrator of the verse must have visited Damascus and seen the use of parchment there. While narrating to the ascribe what Muhammad was supposed to have told his disciples about the pagan's attitude towards his revelations, he must have added the word "parchment" to the verse without realizing the fact that at the time Muhammad had made the statement, parchment was not in use among the pagans of Mecca. 

Hamza and Omar's conversion to the new faith proved to be a milestone in the early history of Islam; for now Muhammad had the physical and moral support of two of the Quraishites' bravest and most powerful people. This also had enabled him to go about his preaching more confidently than ever before. Omar's conversion to Islam is said to have caused so much of exasperation among the Quraish that Abu Talib, Muhammad's uncle, was forced to conclude that the pagans might make an attempt on his nephew's life, either by deception or through open violence. Therefore, the old man urged him and some of his disciples to withdraw to a house, belonging to him, in the neighborhood of the city.

The protection thus given to Muhammad and his followers by Abu Talib, the head of the Hashimites, and by others of his line although differing from him in faith, drew on them the wrath of the rival branch of the Quraishites. This produced a schism that enmeshed the entire tribe. Abu Sofian, the head of the rival branch, availed himself of Muhammad's heresies to throw discredit, not merely upon such of his kindred as had embraced his faith, but upon the whole line of Hashim which - - though dissenting from his doctrines - - had protected him through mere clannish feelings. Abu Sofian did not oppose Muhammad and his uncle Abu Talib only out of personal hatred or religious scruples, but also because of a family feud that related to the guardianship of the Ka'aba.

Part-6

BAN IMPOSED ON THE MUSLIMS
 

The custodianship of the Ka'aba, which generated the life-supporting revenues for its custodians and others affiliated with its functions had rested in the hands of the Hashimite clan for a long period of time. To perpetuate the practice, Abu Talib was desirous of transferring to his own line the honors of being the custodian of the Ka'aba, thus dismaying Abu Sofian and others interested in assuming the honors themselves. The last measure of Abu Talib, in providing Muhammad with a safe haven for refuge, was seized upon by Abu Sofian and his adherents as a pretext for a general ban of their rival line. They, accordingly, issued a decree, forbidding the rest of the tribe of Quraish from intermarrying or holding any intercourse, even commercial deals, with the Hashimites until they delivered up their kinsman, Muhammad, to be restrained from committing blasphemy against their ancestral gods and religion. This decree, which took place in the seventh year of what is called the mission of the Prophet, written on a parchment, was hung up on the wall of Ka'aba. Muslims claim that the ban had caused great difficulty to Muhammad and his followers. We do not know how the proclaimers of the ban implemented the decree, for, according to the Muslim assertion, they had failed to nab Muhammad when he walked away, before their eyes, out of his door in front of which, they were assembled with the intention of murdering him.

The short period of Muhammad's banishment rolled into the annual season of pilgrimage, when pilgrims flocked to Mecca from all parts of Arabia to fulfill their religious obligations. During this sacred occasion, according to ancient law and its usage among the Arabs, all hostilities ceased, and warring tribes met in temporary peace to worship at the temple of Ka'aba. Utilizing the truce that this sacred occasion provided, Muhammad and his disciples ventured out of their shelter, and returned to Mecca.

While at large, Muhammad made full use of the opportunity that the pagan religious immunity afforded him. He mingled freely among the pilgrims - -preaching, praying, propounding his doctrines, and proclaiming his revelations. In this way, he made many converts who, on their return to their destinations, carried with them the seeds of the new faith. The Meccan pagans did not obstruct Muhammad in his mission, as they were bound to follow the sanctity of their religion. Muhammad, on the other hand, flaunted their religious dedication and violated the truce they expected him, as well, to honor. Instead, he went about unhindered, conspicuously propagating his divine faith among the visitors, who, it seems, had remained unaware of the volatile religious situation that was then obtaining in Mecca.

At end of the pilgrimage, Muhammad and his followers retuned to their safe haven. The pagans are not known to have done anything either to prevent their return, or to cause them any hardships. On the contrary, the Meccan pagans, it seems, remained engaged with him, for a period of time, in endless arguments, which he followed with new revelations that denounced those who opposed him and his religion. The Quran, which contains, in Muhammad's own words, the exaggerated details of all the events that had unfolded during twenty-three years of his apostolic mission, does not give us any indication that he was ever persecuted, in the real sense of the word, by his opponents. Nor, does it, for obvious reasons, have the details of how Muhammad must have treated his foes, especially in a situation where they were vehemently opposed to the spread of his religion among the Arabian population.

As the history of the time we are discussing here was tailored over a period of time after Muhammad's death, to favor the Muslims only, it is now impossible for us to know precisely the intrinsic beliefs of the idolaters. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the crudity of their statuary did not necessarily mean that they worshipped stones or trees, any more than the Christians worshipped plaster figures or painted canvasses depicting the saints. It seems probable that the pagans appreciated that the idols were merely symbolic of spiritual beings in the same way in that Muslims now venerate the edifice of Ka'aba as being the House of Allah, though He is believed not to remain confined to a structure of four walls.

Three years had passed since Muhammad and some of his followers took refuge in the safe haven provided by his uncle Abu Talib. During this period, he must have remained the target of his opponents' opprobrious language, but in spite of this, it seems, he continued to walk about the streets and sit, recite and argue in the public square, without ever having had to fear for his life.

In the meantime, the parchment, which contained the ban imposed on Muslims, was partly destroyed and nothing of the decree remained except the initial words, "In thy name, Oh Almighty Allah," the customary ancient formula with which the pagans began their writing. Muslims use this formula today with a slight change brought about in it by Muhammad to fit a doctrine of his religion.

Under the circumstances, the decree was deemed annulled, whereupon Muhammad and his band of disciples were permitted to return to Mecca, unopposed and unhurt.
Pious Muslims consider the mysterious destruction of the decree as another miracle wrought by Allah to help Muhammad; unbelievers, on the contrary, contend that the mortal hands secretly defaced the document, which had become embarrassing to Abu Sofian due to its ineffectiveness.

In our earlier discussion on the use of parchment by the Arabs, we maintained that it was not possible for them to use it for the simple reason that it was not available to them at the relevant time. As to its alleged use for writing the decree of banishment, we hold the view that the pagans had not written the decree on a parchment; instead, they might have had hung up a piece of rag on the wall of the Ka'aba, it being symbolic of the message they wanted to convey to all those who were supposed to implement the ban.

In any event, Muhammad returned to Mecca and it coincided with the victories of the Persians over the Greeks, by which they conquered Syria and a part of Egypt. The idolatrous Quraishites exulted in the defeat of the Christian Greek, whose faith being opposed to the worship of idols; they associated it with the new faith of Islam. Muhammad, on the other hand, was disheartened by the Greeks' defeat but, nevertheless, he replied to the pagans' taunts and exultation by producing the thirtieth Sura or chapter of the Quran, which opened with the following words:

"The Roman Empire
Has been defeated -
In a land close by;
But they (even) after,
(This) defeat of theirs,
Will soon be victorious -
Within a few years.

This prediction was verified and found to be true. Muslim theologians cite this as a proof that the Quran came down from heaven, and that Muhammad possessed the gift of prophecy. In reality, the whole prediction was no doubt a shrewd guess into futurity, aided by the knowledge of the actual events taking place contemporaneously around the Arabian Peninsula. The politicians and statesmen of our time make these kind of predictions almost on a daily basis, hence to claim what Muhammad had predicted about the Greeks as being a heavenly act, is nothing, but an aspersion on his political and statesman-like astuteness.

Not long after Muhammad had returned to Mecca, his uncle Abu Talib, as a result of his old age, was facing death. This man, though supported and protected Muhammad from his infidel enemies, had not converted himself to the faith of his nephew. Many a time, the Muhammad implored him to accept his religion and to die a Muslim, but he always put him off, pleading that he could neither give up his ancestral religion, nor could he join in the exercise which his religion required its adherents to undertake; i.e. the act of placing their "backside above their heads," as the old man described the prostration, which he had seen his nephew performing three times a day.

Muhammad approached Abu Talib once again on his deathbed and beseeched him for the last time to accept the religion of Islam. He declined and breathed his last as an infidel. Abu Lahab, his brother, succeeded him as the head of the clan of Bani Hashim.

Scarcely a few days had passed from the death of the venerable Abu Talib, when Khudeija, the dedicated and faithful wife of Muhammad, also took her leave from this world. This happened in 619 A.D., when she was sixty-five years old.

Though Khudeija was much older than Muhammad himself and past her bloom when women are desirable in the East, and though he was known to have an amorous temperament, yet he is said to have remained faithful to her and avoided taking additional wives, in spite of the fact that the Arabian laws permitted him to do so.

Pious Muslims point to this while highlighting his virtues. But an objective analysis of his relationship with Khudeija does not support the aforesaid Muslim hypothesis.

It is true that so long as Khudeija had lived, Muhammad had taken no additional wives, but it was not purely out of his love for her: it was rather dictated by his circumstances.  He was, perhaps, fearful of his wife and apprehended her retaliation.  He must have realized that if he took another wife while Khudeija was still alive, she might react by depriving him of his sustenance. She might even divulge the secrets that revolved around his prophethood and divine mission, thereby destroying him along with his ambitions. Muhammad's conduct after Khudeija's death lends credence to our hypothesis: there is no record that tells us that he felt deeply sad at the death of his wife and that he mourned it in the manner of an aggrieved husband.

Soon after Khudeija's death, Muhammad sought to compensate himself by entering into multiple wedlocks, and taking a plurality of wives. He permitted, by his own law, four wives to each of his followers but did not limit himself to that number, reasoning that a prophet, being gifted with enormous manly prowess and special privileges, was not bound to restrict himself to the same laws as those of the ordinary mortals. Of his numerous marriages and wives, we shall speak later in a separate chapter.

 

VISIT TO TAIF
 

Muhammad soon realized the irreparable loss that he sustained in the death of his uncle and protector, Abu Talib. After his death, he found no one who could check and react against the hostilities of his inveterate foes - Abu Sofian and Abu Jahl - - who are alleged to have soon stirred up such a spirit of opposition that he deemed it unsafe to continue living in his native town. He set out, therefore, accompanied by his freed slave Zaid, immediately after the death of his uncle and wife, to seek refuge in Taif, a small walled town some seventy miles from Mecca, inhabited by Arabs of the tribe of Thakeef. It was one of the favored places of Arabia, situated among vineyards and gardens. Here grew peaches and plums, melons and pomegranates; figs, blue and green; and the palm trees with their clusters of green and golden fruit. So fresh were its pastures and fruitful its fields, contrasted with the sterility of the desserts, that the Arabs fabled it to have originally been a part of Syria, which had broken off and floated to the site at the time of Noah's deluge.

Muhammad entered Taif hoping to procure some degree of protection on account of the influence that his uncle al Abbas was supposed to have wielded by virtue of his possessions there. But he was totally wrong in selecting Taif as a place of refuge; for it was a stronghold of idolatry and its inhabitants maintained in full force the worship of al Lat, they believed it to be one of the three daughters of Allah.

He remained in Taif for about a month, seeking in vain to convert its inhabitants to Islam. When he tried to preach his doctrines, his voice was muffled by ribald remarks. On many an occasions, stones were thrown at him, which the faithful Zaid warded off. So violent did the popular fury become that he was finally driven out of the city, and even pursued for some distance by an insulting rabble of slaves and urchins. Surprisingly, Allah had given Muhammad no revelation prior to his arrival, forewarning the hostility that he was destined to encounter during his futile visit to the city of Taif.

The visit to Taif may have proved disastrous for Muhammad insofar as his mission for conversion and protection was concerned, but in actuality the sight of the city had immensely benefited him. It enabled him to conceive the layout of the celestial Paradise and to describe it in the Quran, filled with all amenities he had seen in the city. He also had this Paradise peopled with black-eyed virgin houris to be had as consorts by those men who entered it after being judged by Allah on the Day of Resurrection, a licentious temptation that had induced many pagans to embrace Islam, in spite of their being opposed to it in the beginning. However, driven out so ignominiously from the place where he hoped to obtain refuge, Muhammad dared not return to Mecca, fearing persecution at the hands of his enemies. He, therefore, decided to remain in the desert until Zaid found him asylum with his friends in the city. In this extremity, he had one of those visions, which always seem to have appeared in his lonely and agitated moments.

He had halted in a solitary place in the valley of Nakhla, which was situated between Mecca and Taif. Here, while he was reading from his compositions to overcome the feeling of loneliness, he was overheard by a passing group of spirits, known forever as Jinns to the Arabs. They are the beings supposed to have been made of fire, some good, others evil, and liable to judgment on Dooms Day together with men. They are invisible, and maintain residences at isolate places as well as within the proximity of human habitations. They produce children. They also had apostles, like the ones mankind had been having from Adam to the time of Muhammad. Pious Jinns shall be awarded Paradise where they would enjoy felicities at par with the humans, while the evil ones shall be consigned to hell where they shall burn for eternity. The Jinns, made of fire, would be neutralized in order for the hell's fire to have its burning effect on their bodies. The group of the passing Jinns paused and listened to what Muhammad was reading. "Verily," they said at its conclusions, "we have heard an admirable discourse, which directeth us unto the right institution; wherefore we believe therein." Their confession to his religion consoled Muhammad, proving that though men might ridicule him and his doctrines, they were held in high reverence by spiritual intelligence. At least we may infer as much from what has been mentioned about the Jinns in the forty-sixth and seventy-second Suras of the Quran.

From that moment onward, Muhammad declared himself to be the one, sent by Allah, for the conversion of the Jinns, as well as of the human race, to Islam. Interestingly, science and human logic do not recognize Jinns and deny their existence, in any form, on earth.

 

THE ASCENSION TO SEVENTH HEAVEN
 

Muhammad, through the good offices of his freed slave Zaid, having been granted asylum by Mutim Ibn Idi, chief of the Nofal clan of the Quraish, returned one evening to Mecca. The following day, Mutim with his sons and nephews went fully armed to the public square of the Ka'aba and announced that Muhammad was henceforth under their protection. Muhammad was delighted, but it seems that at this crucial juncture of his mission, he refrained from preaching and persuasively converting the members of the Quraish pagans to his religion. Instead, he used his time and energy in attempting to convert those tribesmen who visited Mecca from time to time, as well as those nomads whom he could reach without being impeded by his enemies.

During this period when Muhammad was maintaining a low profile in Mecca, it is said, he, for an unexplained reason, was sleeping one night of the year 620 A.D., in the house of his cousin, Umm Hani. She was a widow whose husband had died when the couple was living in Abyssinia. In the dead of the night, angel Gabriel came to him and "spurred him with his foot" (Martin Lings, op. cit. p. 101). Thus awakened, he was instantly transported to Jerusalem by means of the "winged horse with a woman's face and peacock's tail," called the Burraq. While there, Muhammad tied up the Burraq to a post and thence led all the prophets of bygone days, including Adam, in a prayer at the holy temple known as the "Dome of the Rock." Some Moslem commentators, however, say that the temple in question remained in ruins from the fortieth year of Christ's ascension to heaven till the time of Caliph Omar (634-44) who had restored it to its original shape during his reign. How Omar retrieved the original design of the edifice, however, remains to us an unsolved enigma.

On the issue of morality, critics question the purpose of Muhammad's presence, at dead of night, in the house of a widowed woman, who was living alone, as well as God's decision for inviting him to heaven from the widow's house, instead of his own.
We believe that Muhammad had invented the story of Miraj to hide his presence in Umm Hani's house. In spite of being a polytheistic society, the Meccans honored their dead, and refrained from doing things for some time that would cause pain to the departed souls. Having illicit sex was one of the forbidden things. Muhammad failed to live by that standard, and immediately after Khudeija's death, he sought to satisfy his sexual needs by engaging himself with Umm Hani.

The following morning, people wanted to know about his whereabouts the night before. Not being in a position to disclose the fact that he spent the night at his paramour's house, he told the questioners that he had been on a trip of the celestial world. As the trip involved no other human beings, nor were any humans expected to be existing in the celestial world, to witness his arrival and departure, it prevented the questioners from demanding eyewitnesses to prove his claim, thus extracting himself from a quagmire that could have destroyed, forever, not only him, but also his apostolic career.

The prayer over, angel Gabriel opened up Muhammad's heart for the second time and, cleansing it of all sins that had accumulated in it from the time of the first cleansing performed when he was five years old, the angel replaced the heart back in his chest. Thereafter, a ladder was installed, connecting the site of the Dome with all the seven heavens in the sky. He climbed, one after another, through all the seven heavens. In the course of his tour, Muhammad was shown the Paradise, as well as, the Hell. He saw more women than men burning in its fire. Al Aqsa, as the Dome is also referred to, thus became one of the three holiest places of Islam, because, as Muslims insist, the Muhammad had ascended to the throne of God from its vicinity.

During his celestial visit, Muhammad is said to have had an audience with God, and held confidential parleys with him. In the course of this audience, commentators say, God charged Muhammad and his followers with the mandate of saying prayers fifty times a day, which was subsequently reduced to five on Muhammad's repeated representations. These daily five prayers eventually became a central part of the Islamic practice. The Quran, which is supposed to contain all the essential doctrines of the faith, however, does not specifically say that Muhammad had corporeally ascended to heavens, and spoke to God. This is because, some say, he withheld parts of the episode from his followers for personal reasons, thus giving the impression that the Quran, as a whole, may be containing only as much material as Muhammad, in his discretion, had chosen to divulge to his followers.

As far as the daily five prayers are concerned, the Quran does not explicitly mention these prayers, nor is there hard evidence that Muhammad himself prayed five times a day during his lifetime. Rather, what the Quran mentions, though not clearly, are the three daily prayers: one to be said in the morning, the second in the evening and the third during the night. Neither are the specifics of prostration described; all that the Quran requires of the Muslims is a simple inflection, followed by prostration in their prayers. Nor does the Quran require them to recite anything during their prayers.

Furthermore, the Quran does not mention anything about Muslims being circumcised; nor is it known that Muhammad had ever had this procedure done on his person, though it is obligatory for Muslim parents to have their male children circumcised in their childhood.

Concerning Muhammad's Miraj or Ascension to the heaven, many historians of repute contest the commonly held doctrine of his physical ascension to the seventh heaven. One of them is Fazlur Rahman, who says that the "spiritual experiences of the Prophet were later woven by tradition, especially when an 'orthodoxy' began to take shape, into the doctrine of a single, physical, locomotive experience of the 'Ascension' of Muhammad to Heaven, and still later were supplied all the graphic details about the animal which was ridden by the Prophet during his ascension, about his sojourn in each of the seven heavens, and his parleys with the Prophets of bygone ages from Adam up to Jesus." (Rahman has not mentioned prophet Idris, who is believed to have entered one of the seven heavens surreptitiously; and taken residence in it by hoodwinking Gabriel, his best friend). He concludes by saying that "the doctrine of a locomotive Miraj or Ascension developed by the orthodox (chiefly on the pattern of the Ascension of Jesus) and backed by Hadith is no more than a historical fiction whose materials come from various sources."

What Rahman really implies is that Muhammad did not physically ascend to heavens; that he did not have an audience with God and, consequently, he and his followers were not mandated to say any prayers.

Muhammad Marmaduke Pickthall, a respected scholar of Islam, appears to agree with Rahman's position. Consequently, he has not mentioned anything in his works on the Quran (see The Meaning of the Glorious Koran) about the mysterious Miraj; this despite the fact that Muslims consider the putative journey to be an essential component of their faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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