In the Bulletin Board of Jebhe Melli (Democratic National Front of Iran) I asked several questions about Islam. Someone reported them to Ayatollah Montazeri and he responded in his own handwriting (published bellow). What follows is the translation of his letter and my response to him.
Ayatoll Montazeri was a Muslim, but above all he was a good human. He was loved by all Iranians and will not be forgotten. I give homage to a great man.
ah Montazeri was the most prominent spiritual leader of the Shiites. He was first chosen by Khomeini to be his successor. However, he opposed the senseless massacres of Khomeini and was ousted. Since then and until his death in 2009, Ayatollah Montazeri was under house arrest. Mr. Montazeri was the main opposition figure of reformists who believe in Islam but not in the Velayate Faghih (Guardianship). He was the most respected religious figure in Iran.
The subjects discussed with Ayatollah Montazeri were about
The young age of Aisha
Were the Prophet’s wars defensive?
Safiyah, the Jewish Wife of Muhammad
The Genocide of the Jews of Medina
The following is the sealed letter of Ayatollah Montazeri:
The young age of Ayesha
Question no. 1
Muhammad married Ayesha when she was 6-years old and consummated his marriage with her when she was 9-years-old. How could a 54 year-old man, calling himself the messenger God and the example to follow have sexual feelings for a 9-year-old girl?
1- Ayatollah Montazeri
In those days the tradition of Marriage was based on tribal customs and rituals. The objective of marriage was mainly to foster friendship with the father of the bride and therefore the marriage of the Prophet with Ayesha was a political move.
This is not a good excuse to marry an underage child. I am not bothered of the marriage of the prophet with a daughter of Abu Bakr, but the fact that Ayesha was a child. It is not proper for a messenger of God to have sexual feelings for a little girl and it is unconscionable to act on them. In this day and age if a 54-year-old man has an intercourse with a 9-year-old girl he will be jailed and prosecuted as a pedophile. Why should the Prophet be forgiven?
2. Ayatollah Montazeri.
The Prophet at the age of 25 married Khadijah, a woman who was 40-years-old and did not marry with another woman as long as she was alive. If the Prophet was a lustful man, he would not have married with an older woman and stay faithful to her all her life.
Khadijah was a wealthy woman and the Prophet was a poor employee of her. Marrying a wealthy woman for him was climbing the ladder of social status. Being a poor young man, no one paid attention to him. Kadijah was to him a boon. She gave him the comfort and the ease of mind from financial worries. With a wealthy wife he could afford to retreat to his cave and let his imagination fly – meet Jinns, battle with Satan, converse with Gabriel, and other creatures that haunted his feeble mind.
The fact that Muhammad remained faithful to Khadijah was not due to his chastity or loyalty but because she was a powerful woman and he lived in her house eating her food and depending on her money for. At that time Muhammad had no followers and he would have lost everything had he offended his rich wife. That would have destroyed him completely.
However, he showed his true colors when he came to power and nothing could stop him from doing what he pleased. It was then that he broke all the norms of the decency by the leave of his Allah.
3- Ayatollah Montazeri.
The Prophets intention in marrying numerous old and widowed women, apart from sociopolitical considerations, was to foster their social status. Those were the days when women, especially slave girls, had little or no value and ignorance was such that they used to burry their daughters alive.
The Prophet married Khadijah, as I explained above, for her wealth. After her death he married Ayesha who was only 6 years old and due to Abu Bakr’s request he did not consummate his marriage with her for three years. During this time he needed a woman. The non-believers would not marry him. They thought he was a lunatic. Among his handful of followers there were few eligible women with whom he could marry. Sauda was a Muslim woman and a widow. She was ideal under the circumstances. She could warm his bed and take care of his needs. He married her two months after the death of Kahdijah. Khadijah and Sauda were the only wives of the Prophet, with whom he married not for lust but out of necessity.
Hafza, the daughter of Omar also may have not been very beautiful, according to her own father and Muhammad may have married her to please his friend. Imagine being a woman and knowing that your husband has married you not for love but for political reasons.
His other wives were all beautiful young women in their teens. Muhammad married them or simply slept with them without marrying them only because of their looks. Sometimes he had to bend a few rules and make Allah reveal a few verses in order to allow him get what he wanted, as in the case of Zeinab Bent Jahsh, Mariyah and Aisha. None of his wives were suffering from malnutrition or were lonely poor widows prior to marrying him. The stories of Safiyah, Mariyah and Zeinab are love stories, flavored with lust, betrayal and crime.
You also correctly described the deplorable condition of the slave girls in those days, but you forgot to mention that those slave girls were free before the Prophet reduced them into slaves. Are you saying that these women should have been grateful to Muhammad for killing their loved ones and sell them in the markets to a Muslim who would use them as a maid and a sex slave?
4- Ayatollah Montazeri
The marriage of the Prophet with Ayesha took place in the first or second year of the Hijra at the insistence of her father Abu Bakr and some of his friends. The Prophet, for sometimes after the death of Khadijah, remained single. His main objective in accepting this marriage was for political reasons. The reason for this marriage was that the Prophet was under the intense pressure by his enemies like Abu Lahab and Abu Jahl and was completely dependant of the protection of other tribes. Abu Bakr had a lot of tribal influence. And rejecting his offer, in those conditions, for the Prophet was not prudent. In reality this marriage was symbolic and not to satisfy his sexual instinct, because, as a rule a 53-year-old man cannot have sexual feelings for a 9-year-old girl.
The Prophet did not marry Ayesha at the insistence of her father. There are many Hadiths that show it was the Prophet who desired her and asked Abu Bakr to give him his then 6-year-old daughter for marriage. In fact Abu Bakr was shocked by such a request. He objected that he was a foster brother to Muhammad, but the Prophet dismissed his concern saying that they were not real blood brothers and their oath of brotherhood was of no relevance in this case.
Sahih Bukhari 7.18
The Prophet asked Abu Bakr for ‘Aisha’s hand in marriage. Abu Bakr said “But I am your brother.” The Prophet said, “You are my brother in Allah’s religion and His Book, but she (Aisha) is lawful for me to marry.”
Arabs were a primitive lot with little rules to abide. Yet they had some code of ethics that they honored scrupulously. For example, although they fought all the year round, they abstained from hostilities during certain holy months of the year. They also considered Mecca to be a holy city and did not make war against it. A foster son’s wife was deemed to be a daughter-in-law and they would not marry her. Also it was costmary that close friends made a pact of brotherhood and considered each other as true brothers. The Prophet disregarded all of these rules anytime they stood between him and his interests or wishes.
Abu Bakr and Muhammad had pledged to each other to be brothers. So according to their custom Aisha was like a niece to Muhammad. But that did not stop him to ask her hand even when she was only six years old.
However, this moral relativist prophet would use the same excuse to reject the daughter of Hamza who was also a foster brother to him because she was not pretty.
Sahih Bukhari V.7, B62, N. 37
Narrated Ibn ‘Abbas:
It was said to the Prophet, “Won’t you marry the daughter of Hamza?” He said, “She is my foster niece (brother’s daughter).”
Hamza was an uncle of Muhammad and in Islam marriage between cousins is permissible. Muhammad’s excuse was that Hamza is his foster brother. In the case of Abu Bakr, that excuse was irrelevant.
In the following Hadith the Prophet confided to Ahesha that he had dreamed of her before asking her hand from her father. Rules were to be bent whenever it suited him and were to be observed whenever they were convenient.
In the following hadith we can see that it was Muhammad who lusted Aisha when she was just a baby or a toddler.
Sahih Bukhari 9.140
Allah’s Apostle said to me, “You were shown to me twice (in my dream) before I married you. I saw an angel carrying you in a silken piece of cloth, and I said to him, ‘Uncover (her),’ and behold, it was you. I said (to myself), ‘If this is from Allah, then it must happen.’ Then you were shown to me, the angel carrying you in a silken piece of cloth, and I said (to him), ‘Uncover (her), and behold, it was you. I said (to myself), ‘If this is from Allah, then it must happen.’ ”
The excuse that this marriage was for political convenience, although abhorrent on its own merit, can be dismissed easily. Abu Bakr was a good friend of Muhammad. He was one of his staunch followers and his foster brother. They were of the same tribe. Hence there was no need for the Apostle of Allah to sleep with the little daughter of his follower to foster his friendship. The evidence shows that Muhammad took advantage of this man’s devotion and abused the trust that he had in him. He coerced Abu Bakr into handing him his little girl. How could Abu Bakr deny the request of a man whom he believed to be a messenger of God?
Abu Jahl (the Father of Ignorance) was a derogatory nickname that Muhammad gave to Abul Hakam (the Father of Wisdom). It’s difficult to see in what ways sleeping with a 9-year-old girl would have protected Muhammad from him? As you said this marriage took place one or two years after Hijra. His enemies were in Mecca. Even if such a marriage could have protected the Prophet, which is absurd, he was already safe in Medina. This is a moot excuse.
Anyway, the point is not that Muhammad married a daughter of Abu Bakr. The point is that he had sex with a 9-year-old child. If you say it was done to protect himself, then he was an opportunist who raped a little girl to save his own life. Please don’t say it was not rape because a 9-year-old child is not mature enough to consent and if she cannot consent it is rape. Your defense incriminates your defendant even more than my accusations.
You said the marriage was symbolic. How symbolic it could be if Muhammad had sex with Aisha when she, according to her own testimony, was still playing with her toys? He then gave her a different kind of “toy” to play with that SURPRISED that little girl.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 62, Number 90
When the Prophet married me, my mother came to me and made me enter the house (of the Prophet) and NOTHING SURPRISED ME BUT THE COMING OF ALLAH’S APOSTLE TO ME IN THE FORENOON.
You wrote, “As a rule a 53-year-old man cannot have sexual feelings for a 9-year-old girl.” That is absolutely true. This is precisely my point. Unfortunately we are not living in a perfect world and there are people who are psychologically disturbed and violate the rules. Even today there are old men who fantasize having sex with small children, keep their photos and exchange them on the Internet. They are known as pedophiles. To protect our children we put them in jail. If the Prophet hadn’t “surprised” that little girl in the same forenoon that her mother took her to his house, I could have accepted that the marriage was “symbolic”, even though its merits are not clear. But when we see that he consummated his marriage with that little girl in the same day, it is hard to see it as “symbolic”; symbolic of what? He set an example for all the pedophiles to rape little girls with impunity. Is this what he wanted to reach mankind?
5- Ayatollah Montazeri.
There is no doubt that the climatic conditions influence the physical and psychological growth of girls and their growth are more accelerated in hot climates.
In the previous point you explained that the marriage was symbolic and “as a rule a 53-year-old man cannot have sexual feelings for a 9-year-old girl”. But now you are approaching from a totally different angle.
I am afraid, 9 year-old girls in Arabia are still 9-year-old children. Unless you advance a scientific evolutionary theory that human race has undergone a huge mutation during the last 1400 years and in those days women reached adulthood at the age of 9, the fact remains that Muhammad had sexual feelings for an underage girl and this was wrong. He even acted on that which makes is despicable and criminal.
To be convinced that 9-year-old children were always children, even during the time of the Prophet, all we have to do is look at another hadith narrated by Aisha herself. In the following hadith she is revealing that she was playing on a swing when her mother took her to the Prophet.
Sunan Abu-Dawud Book 41, Number 4915, also Number 4915 and Number 4915
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:
The Apostle of Allah (pbuh) married me when I was seven or six. When we came to Medina, some women came, according to Bishr’s version: Umm Ruman came to me when I was swinging. They took me, made me prepared and decorated me. I was then brought to the Apostle of Allah (pbuh), and he took up cohabitation with me when I was nine. She halted me at the door, and I burst into laughter.
And she used to play with her dolls.
Sahih Bukhari Volume 8, Book 73, Number 151
I used to play with the dolls in the presence of the Prophet, and my girl friends also used to play with me. When Allah’s Apostle used to enter (my dwelling place) they used to hide themselves, but the Prophet would call them to join and play with me. (The playing with the dolls and similar images is forbidden, but it was allowed for ‘Aisha at that time, as she was a little girl, not yet reached the age of puberty.) (Fateh-al-Bari page 143, Vol.13)
Sahih Muslim Book 008, Number 3327:
‘A’isha (Allah be pleased with her) reported that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) married her when she was seven years old, and he was taken to his house as a bride when she was nine, and her dolls were with her; and when he (the Holy Prophet) died she was eighteen years old.
As a rule one would say that if she was still playing with her dolls, she was not mature enough to learn about sex, first hand, from a man who could be her grandfather.
6- Ayatollah Montazeri.
The difference of age between men, and the women they married, in the primitive societies, was acceptable and customary. Also it was not indecent or lewd for older men to marry very young girls and people of those days did not deem that to be something immoral. Even up to this day, one can find marriages with very young girls among the Arabs. As a rule one should not compare the customs of the primitive and tribal societies with the customs of the modern and advanced societies of today.
I agree that primitive societies had some customs that are shocking to our modern sensitivity. Primitive people did a lot of things that appall us today. They had human and animal sacrifices; practiced gender discrimination, slavery and many forms of abuses of human rights. I am not condemning primitive societies for they did not know better. I am condemning modern people who follow a man who was a product of his primitive society. I am condemning a man who called himself the Prophet of Allah, the “Mercy of God in the worlds” Rahmatu’llah lil Alamin and the example for all mankind; who instead of setting the example of morality and rectitude followed the customs of his primitive society and thus reaffirmed them and perpetuated them as something to emulate. I am condemning a society that has forgotten its own past splendor and glory and is now trying to copy the customs of a primitive society and wants to establish their primeval precepts by following a man who a product of it.
Yes, we should not compare the customs of primitive and tribal societies with the customs of the modern and advanced societies of today. But why should we emulate them? Why should we follow them? Why should we accept their prophet who was incapable of breaking away from that primitiveness and barbarity?
If Muhammad were a prophet, he would have acted differently. He would have not followed the vices of his primitive society but would have set a new standard. If he followed them why should we following him? Doesn’t this make us the follower of those primitive societies?
On one hand Muslims study Muhammad’s life meticulously, try to imitate him in everything he did. They dress like him, shave like him, walk like him and talk like him, do as he did and live as he lived. They believe he was sent to be the example to all humanity. Yet you say that he did just what the ignorant people of his time used to do and we should forgive his sins because he was just a victim of his circumstances. How pitiful are we who have not seen this yet. Look what has befallen to our mighty nation that has forsaken its own glorious past and instead is blindly following a man who followed the customs of his primitive society. Could we sink deeper than this? Is there any humiliation more denigrating than this?
7- Ayatollah Montazeri
The issues of each time and place must be viewed according to the standards of their own time and place and not according to standards of other times and places. On the other hand we find that the Prophet (pbuh) practically did not confront with many customs of his own time that were not in contrast with the educational and spiritual goals of Islam, but dealt with them gradually and with realism in order to slowly eradicate them.
I agree that issues should be apprised in the context of to their own time and place. Something that was acceptable 1400 years ago in Arabia may not look that good today. Perhaps we should not judge those people so harshly. But the question is why should we follow them? The solutions that were appropriate then are no more suitable for our time. Why follow a doctrine that has lost its utility and is stuck in history?
Muslims are advised to follow the Sunnah of the Prophet. You say that the Prophet was an Arab, following the traditions of his own people, so what he did was right in that context. But by following him now aren’t we perpetuating those unfit and outdated customs of those Arabs of 1400 years ago?
You affirm that the Prophet did not confront those bad customs that were not in contrast with spiritual and educational goals of Islam. My question is then, what are the spiritual and educational goals of Islam? What is the main goal of Islam anyway? The Muslim’s answer is of course; to recognize that Allah is one and he does not have any partner and that Muhammad is His messenger. This is the main concern of Islam. Moral and ethical issues are secondary. All the sins can be forgiven. Theft, homicide, murder and pedophilia are forgivable, but assigning a partner to Allah is not.
Allah forgiveth not that partners should be set up with Him; but He forgiveth anything else, to whom He pleaseth; to set up partners with Allah is to devise a sin Most heinous indeedl. (Q.4: 48).
In other words, Saddam Hussein, Idi Amin, Ben Laden, Khalkhali and Khomeini will be forgiven, despite their crimes, because they were Muslims and did not set partners to Allah, but Gandhi who was a Hindu and as Muslims claim believed in a multitudes of deities will be burned for eternity in hell.
This Allah must be sick. He is a lunatic and a very miserable being for wanting so desperately to be known by his creatures and being so jealous. If this is the god of Muhammad he is not worthy of any praise. He should be locked in a mental hospice.
As to those bad habits of the people that the holy Prophet did not confront directly, but tried to deal with them gradually in order to eradicate them, what are they? In our world, pedophilia is a crime. It’s a shame that the Prophet did not consider pedophilia important enough to deal with it immediately because it did not contrast the spiritual goals of Islam. I would have been still happy if at least he had discouraged it. But no, he didn’t. He actually endorsed it by himself setting the example. This is not the way to “eradicate” something. This is the way to confirm it, to perpetuate it and to promote it.
Prior to Islam, we Iranians were a cultured people. We did not have these barbaric customs and traditions. Thanks to Islam these shameful traditions have also crept into our culture and are being practiced in our motherland.
Pedophilia is only one of the gifts of Islam to us. The holy Prophet endorsed many traditions that are equally despicable. Assassination of one’s enemies that is now so customary in our country was also a tradition of the Prophet. He used to send assassins to the houses of his enemies to kill them at night. The “honorable” members of the Islamic Regime of Iran are following that tradition of the messenger of Allah (peace be upon his immaculate soul).
Question no. 2
How could someone calling himself a messenger of God raid and loot merchant caravans and villages and act like a common hoodlum and a highway robber?
As for the raids at the merchant caravans of the Quraish this caravan comprehended several wealthy Meccan enemies of Islam and was accompanied by Abu Sofyan the renowned arch enemy of Islam and the Muslims. In that year the hostilities of the Quraish and their instigations against Islam and the Muslims had intensified. Medina had just become the political and governmental center for the Muslims and it was under the attack of its Quraish enemies from every directions.
This was, and still is, an accepted practice in the world. Highway robbery however is something completely different. A highway robber is a thug and a hoodlum that endangers the lives and the safety of the people that live peacefully in their own city or country without showing enmity to others and steals their property.
Many Muslims were forced to abandon their homes due to the Quraish persecution and had emigrated to Medina These people wanted to retaliate and reclaim their properties from the Quraish. They had been informed that this caravan carried a lot of wealth. The leadership of the Muslims was also planning to render the highways that were purveying economically and militarily the enemy, unsafe. The main objective of this sudden attack was to render insecure the arteries so that the enemy is weakened in their war against the Muslims. These wars continued until Mecca was conquered.
Obviously when two countries or two forces are in war, and while there are no peace treaties between them, each side is justified to debilitate the economical and the military strength of the opposing party and threaten their security.
Dear Ayatollah Montazeri,
I would like to thank you for being truthful and unlike most of the Muslims who claim all the wars of their Prophet were defensive you acknowledge that he was actually the aggressor and it was he who raided merchant caravans. This saves a lot of time because I don’t have to list his numerous attacks at those whom he considered to be his enemies.
However, you seem to justify his raids and his killing of the civilians because as you see them they were strategic military plans to weaken the position of the enemy. Muhammad’s own excuse was that Muslims have the right to take back what the Quraish took away from them when they forced them to exile.
Notwithstanding, the truth is that Meccans did not drive the Muslims out of their homes. They emigrated on their own volition and because of Mohammad’s insistence. At first he ordered his followers to immigrate to Abyssinia and then when he found enough disciples in Medina, he sent them thither.
Despite the fact that Muhammad constantly insulted the religion of the Quraish and infuriated them with his abrasive behavior there is no evidence violence or persecution against him or his followers recorded in Islamic annals.
Muslims today would not tolerate any criticism against their religion. They would kill at once any person who dares to question their belief. This is what the prophet taught them to do. But Arabs prior to Muhammad were more tolerant. They used to live with the Jews and Christians in harmony without any sign of religious animosity between them. The ultimate test of tolerance came when Muhammad started taunting their gods. Despite that kind of insult the Quraish evinced incredible degree of tolerance and although being offended, they never harmed him.
Compare that to the treatment of the Baha’is in Iran. Baha’is don’t insult Muhammad or his Allah, they don’t reject their holey Imams nor disagree with any part of the Quran. All they say is that their messenger is the Promised One of the Muslims. This is nothing compared to Muhammad’s affronts of the beliefs of the people of Quraish. Nevertheless, Muslims have not spared any act of atrocity against the Baha’is. They killed many of them, jailed them, tortured them, beat them, denied their human rights and treated them with utter inhumanity. None of that was done against Muhammad and his followers in Mecca even though he constantly accosted their gods with showers of taunts and imprecated their sacred beliefs, daring them to persecute, the Meccans remained tolerant.
When the Meccans had enough of it and could no longer stand his mocking of their deities, a body of their elders repaired to Abu Talib, Muhammad’s uncle and complained: – “This Nephew of thine hath spoken opprobriously of our gods and our religion: and hath abused us as fools, and given out that our forefathers were all astray. Now, avenge us thyself of our adversary; or, (seeing that thou art in the same case with ourselves,) leave him to its that we may take our satisfaction.” Abu Talib spoke to them softly and assured them he would counsel his nephew to be more deferential. But Muhammad would not change his proceedings. So they went again to Abu Talib in great vexation; and warned him that if he would not restrain his nephew from his offensive conduct, they would have to restrain him themselves. They said, “and now verily we cannot have patience any longer with his abuse of us, our ancestors, and our gods. Wherefore either do thou hold him back from us, or thyself take part with him that the matter may be decided between us.”
This is all that is recorded about the persecution of Muhammad in Mecca. The above is a warning, but it falls short of issuing a threat. Until Abu Talib was alive and even after his death Mecca no harm was inflicted upon Muhammad. Some slaves were beaten by their masters for insulting their gods, but freed when their price was paid or exchanged with a non-Muslim slave.
One act of physical violence reported against a Muslim is the beating of Omar of his own sister who had converted to Islam, which led to his own acceptance. This however cannot be called a religious persecution, but a family violence. Omar was an irritable man with an unpredictable temper who would lose his composure easily and resort to violence. Yet even this hadith may not be true because in another Hadith narrated by Omar himself he describes his story of conversion to Islam differently.
So the question arises, if there were no persecution against the Muslims, why did they migrate? We know that many of them abandoned Mecca and immigrated, first to Abyssinia and then to Medina. Why would they leave their homes if they were not in danger?
The answer to this question can be found what was going in the mind of Muhammad. It was he who asked his followers to leave. In fact he ordered them to leave making it a mandate from Allah. The Following verses clarify this perfectly.
“Lo! those who believed and left their homes and strove with their wealth and their lives for the cause of Allah, and those who took them in and helped them: these are protecting friends one of another. And those who believed but did not leave their homes, ye have no duty to protect them till they leave their homes; but if they seek help from you in the matter of religion then it is your duty to help (them) except against a folk between whom and you there is a treaty. Allah is Seer of what ye do.”(Q.8: 72)
These are very harsh words against his own followers who did not leave Mecca and stayed behind. In other part he presses further this point.
They long that ye should disbelieve even as they disbelieve, that ye may be upon a level (with them). So choose not friends from them till they forsake their homes in the way of Allah; if they turn back (to enmity) then take them and kill them wherever ye find them, and choose no friend nor helper from among them, (Q.4: 89)
In the above verse Muhammad is ordering the believers of Mecca to forsake their homes and go to Medina. He goes as far as to instruct other Muslims to kill them if they decide to return home, which is consistent with the cultic nature of Islam. So as we can witness the exodus of the Muslims from Mecca was not due to any persecution by the idolaters. There was no such a persecution even though Muhammad exasperated the Quraish to their limit of forbearance with his triad of insults. The new converts left Mecca because Muhammad asked them to. His pressure tactics was so intense that he even told them that they would go to hell if they stayed behind and did not emigrate.
Lo! as for those whom the angels take (in death) while they wrong themselves, (the angels) will ask: In what were ye engaged? They will say: We were oppressed in the land. (The angels) will say: Was not Allah’s earth spacious that ye could have migrated therein? As for such, their habitation will be hell, an evil journey’s end;(Q.4: 97)