In this series, Fr. Daniel Sysoev presents a critical analysis of Islamic doctrine as well as analysis of theological and mystic aspects of life and work of Muhammad in the framework of traditional Orthodox comparative theology. . .
Click here to read Part 1 - On Islam
Click here to read Part 3 - Questions and answers
Part 2 - Muhammad
We are to talk of Muhammad today: who he is to sum up for the Orthodox Church, how we should regard him, and how he should be interpreted from the viewpoint of the Church and, more importantly, in respect to the Holy Writ, for the Church has no standpoint other than of God’s Word.
For Muslims Muhammad is the greatest Prophet, the “Seal of the prophets”63, the brilliant example even superior to Jesus Christ. His actions are exemplary, perfect; he is said to be perfect despite his all-too-human foibles, and his style is immaculate. Even now, the style of the Quran is used in literacy tests.
So who was he in truth? Was he a Prophet? Can a Christian think of him as a Prophet?
To find the truth, a review of his life and fates, his mission, and his message to humanity at large is appropriate. For Muhammad as a person is not an ordinary politician, heretic or teacher. He is a figure of global importance comparable to Buddha, Confucius, Zoroaster or Alexander of Macedonia. Since he ranks among the great by right, and his cause survives, we should make an estimate of his career.
How do we know about him? Islamic studies are largely inhibited by the fact that the bulk (99 per cent) of information on Muhammad comes from Islamic sources. No contemporary evidence was supplied by his opponents, adversaries or any disinterested persons. We have nothing to match, so to say. Our situation is somewhat similar to that of future scholars investigating the lives of Ron Hubbard64 or Grigory Grabovoy65 two hundred years after. Moreover, available Islamic sources or, more precisely, written evidence, were far away from Muhammad’s days. Muhammad’s biography was eventually recorded a hundred years after his death, and the hadith were completed at the same time, almost a hundred years – not mere decades – after his death.
This certainly poses a great problem because, despite the efforts (titanic efforts indeed) that Muslims made to verify this or that hadith, or this or that tradition, study of Muhammad’s life, that is, interpretation of individual events tends to accumulate errors with the lapse of time.
For example, early stories of Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina tell that he hided in a cave and a whirlwind prevented his enemies from finding him. Later versions involve a mysterious spider spinning his web over the cave mouth. Thus a real episode was fantasized.
The problem is there but I think it immaterial. For the most important spiritual principle, the key spirit of Muhammad’s life remains.
Muhammad was born in 570 – tradition having it as the Elephant year when Ethiopians attempting to seize Mecca and destroy the Kaaba were defeated. His father, Abdullah, died before he was born, leaving the boy half-orphaned.
Muhammad was a 46th-generation descendant of Ishmael, and a descendant of Abraham through Ismail, Abraham’s son by his concubine. Therefore the prophecy of Ismail was realized in Muhammad and his disciples: “he will be like a mountain ass among men; his hand will be against every man and every man’s hand against him, and he will keep his place against all his brothers”66. Muhammad … appeared as a scourge of God for whoever forsakes the Creator.
Arabia was in the tribal state at the time, with the exception of South Arabia. Most Arabs worshipped idols while respecting a supreme deity called “Allah” almost a century before Muhammad. The name of “Allah” first occurred in writing some time in the 5th century BC. The main temple for this deity was the Kaaba traditionally associated with Abraham and even Adam. The temple of the black rock “lighter than water” contained the main idol of Kaaba’s divine patron, Hubal – or Baal, the Baal that Prophet Elias fought against. Most interestingly, the Quran never condemned the Hubal cult even though Muhammad destroyed the idol.
Hubal was presumed to have three daughters, the pagan goddesses Al-Lat, Al-«Uzza, and Manat. They were planetary deities, mediators before Allah or Hubal, and the cult was so widespread because the Arabic world, like mankind in general, believed that God the Creator is too distant to worship and minor deities should be found close by, more intimate, more tame if you will, to bow to and respect.
In addition to the popular paganism, Arabia practiced many other religions. First, there were the powerful Judaic communities. There had been a large and strong Hebrew kingdom in Yemen shortly before Muhammad was born. St Arethas67 and his 4299 martyrs refusing to forsake Jesus Christ had been executed by Jews in Yemen. They are remembered in prayer on 24 October old style, the eve of the Red October revolution day. It was they who witnessed Christ among the Arabs.
The Hebrew kingdom was destroyed by Ethiopians for the persecution of Christians, and Jewish tribes were scattered about the paradise peninsula. As a matter of fact, the Jews knew perfectly well that many Arabic tribes, though not all, were blood descendants of Abraham and, consequently, of Shem and Ham68. There is a notion of a “black Arab”. Emir Khattab69, for one, was referred to as “the black Arab”. For Arabians, the true black Arab is a descendant of Ham. It is a discrimination of sorts like the blue and red blood. I do not know if Khattab is a classical example of the “black Arab” but the notion remains. Jews recognizing Arabs for their relations had many converted to Judaism. There were Arabian Jews and Jewish tribes.
Christianity was also professed among Arabians. The Christian community with Christian bishops in Yemen may be cited as an example. Many Christians inhabited the coast of the Persian Gulf. There were Christian Arabic nomads too. Some Ghassani tribes70 wandering at the borders of Byzantine Empire were also Christian.
Regretfully, they were mostly non-Orthodox. Arabia was outside Byzantine limits, and whoever was persecuted within the Empire – heretics, Manichees, anyone perverting evangelism – took refuge in Arabia. They generated a syncretic union similar to Moscow today with its various and preposterous notions and no true conception of Christianity. So Arabs often knew Christianity in heretical form. In the Quran and various tales Muhammad often meets “Christians” arguing in the way we would never imagine. For instance, Muhammad contests the doctrine of God being Allah, and Jesus Christ and Virgin Mary as additional deities. Clearly, the Church professed nothing of the kind. Muhammad seems to know nothing of true Christianity, except by hearsay.
And among the mass of contradictions some people say that, “we follow no tradition, we are successors to the religion of Ibrahim, that is, Abraham; we are pure monotheists and will only bow down to the One God”.
According to the classical “Life of Muhammad”, his advent was predicted by various foretellers. Thus a sorcerer and astrologer predicted the birth of a great prophet on his parents’ wedding day. Christian heretics and Hebrews predicted a prophet among the Arabs. Muslims believe that all these prove the genuine mission of Muhammad.
Muhammad was a sickly child prone to fits. At about the age of three when he was staying with his grandfather and tended by a wet nurse, he fainted. He was promptly brought back to his mother unless he died in infancy.
Muhammad recollected that he was approached by some spirits who opened his bosom, took out his heart and removed a black clot, then put his heart back and closed his body. He was thus cleansed of some filthiness.
According to Ibn Hisham71, Muhammad had a mark on his back similar to a slash which Muslims believed to be a symbol of prophecy and his main identification, like a birthmark. Interestingly, some nations think that birthmarks are offensive. This is certainly superstition though people with birthmarks are generally more emotional and nervous. This is explained by pigmentation and metabolic imbalance. Superstitious people, however, believe that birthmarks are evil. They are sometimes described as “witches marks”, identifying a witch in medieval times. Arabians, on the other hand, believed a birthmark to be a symbol of Muhammad’s mission.
Muhammad grew up to become a proficient merchant. He was employed as a clerk by a rich woman by the name of Khadijah72 and subsequently married her. He was 25, she was 15 years older. He loved her passionately and took no other wife until her death because he was very much attached to her. Khadijah was his assistant, and she convinced him that was a prophet and his mission was willed by Allah. The apparent misalliance proved to be happy.
Incidentally, Muhammad was said to be a fairly gifted merchant, and the idea of his illiteracy is doubtful. Indeed, operating his business throughout the Middle East almost up to Persia, and certainly visiting Syria, he could hardly figure out (using literal rather than yet non-existent numeral system) being illiterate as he never went to school.
A sign of his imminent mission was his contribution, at the age of 35, to the reconstruction of a heathen shrine, the dilapidated Kaaba. A ship was wrecked at the time and Arabs came marauding according to custom. They plundered the ship including the planking and stocks, and decided to use the plunder with good intention to reconstruct the Kaaba. The point was who was to lay the celebrated black stone, the most sacred gift of Allah. Muhammad was chosen as the most truthful man in Mecca. He was charged with laying the black stone. That was a sign of his imminent mission as Muslims see it.
In 610 when Muhammad was 40, he was summoned to prophecy. Interestingly, it is described very much as a classical case of shamanic disease. The term designates a man unprotected by baptism and God’s grace, and assaulted by evil spirits. It usually happens like this: a shaman hears slow and beautiful signing from afar, or distant rocks or trees announcing imminent commandment. The man is usually frightened by the strange phenomena. And if he shows weakness, the evil spirit – the shaman spirit – visits him, breaking and torturing until the man agrees to be a “wizard”, a shaman. The word “shaman” is translated in Russian as a man in charge of secret knowledge.
A similar or, to be precise, an identical situation is that of Muhammad. He often retired to Hira73 to pray for a true way. When climbing the hill one day in the Ramadan, he heard the rocks and trees saying: “You are the herald of Allah. You are the Apostle of Allah, rejoice you Apostle of Allah”. Looking around, he saw none but the hailing rocks and trees.
Muhammad retired to the Hira cave to pray every night, bringing his food, and only returned to Khadijah for more food. One morning Muhammad prayed in the Hira cave until the truth was revealed to him. An angel appeared saying: “Read!” The chosen one answered: “I do not know how”. And the Prophet goes on: “He held and crushed me to exhaustion. Then he released me saying: “Read!” Again I answered: “I don’t know how!” He seized me again, squeezing till my strength failed. He then set me free, commanding: “Read! In the name of the Lord who created man out of a bundle!”
Muhammad was thus forced to utter the words that the spirit put into his mouth, squeezing him, or even strangling, according to alternative hadith.
We asked Muslims in a recent debate why the creator wants to break his servant’s will. They retorted that Isaiah had live coal applied to his lips74. As a matter of fact, Isaiah volunteered for the ordeal. God asked: “Whom am I to send, and who will go for us?”75 Isaiah asked to be purified, he strove for prophecy. His will was free. And the coal did not scorch but rather purified, as we all know. Purification by God is mysterious. Notice that the God-given fire descending from heaven on the Holy Sepulcher on Easter Eve is not scorching at the outset! We are all aware of the miracle. By contrast, Muhammad’s is a case of violence against man, and the exact copy of shamanic decease!
Interestingly, shamanic tribes respect a man resisting shamanic decease most. He is said to be most noble and respectable. Such men are scarce, for the devil is very strong in this outer world. Muhammad was frightened by a spirit subsequently known as Jibril – that is, Gabriel – though never introducing himself. It was Muhammad’s kinsman Warakah76 who said it was Jibril.
Anyway, what happened after the vision? The Prophet went back with the revelation and a nervous cramp in his neck, as Ibn Hisham put it. «He came to Khadijah muttering: “Wrap me up!“. She did, and he asked: “What is it, Khadijah?” She told him what it was, and he said: “I am frightened”. And she answered: “Oh no, don’t worry, for I swear by Allah that Allah will never offend you since you are kind to your kinsmen, truthful in your speech, merciful to the poor, generous to visitors, and helpful to the unfortunate”. Khadijah took him to Warakah ibn Nawfal, her paternal cousin. He adopted Christianity in the days of innocence, and knew Arabic writing. He had even copied some Gospel texts in Arabic by God’s will in former days, but he was old and blind at the time. Khadijah said: “You son of my uncle, listen to your nephew”. Warakah asked: “What did you see, nephew?” The Prophet described what he had seen.
And Warakah said: “It was the angel that had been sent to Moses. Oh would I be young again and live to the day when your people reject you!”
The elected asked: “Will they reject me?”
Warakah answered: “Whoever brings what you have brought is always quarreled with. Would I live to the day, I would lend you a hand”.
Warakah died soon after, and revelation was interrupted because the prophet grieved so as to try to jump down from high rocks. But each time climbing a mountain peak to jump down, he met angel Jibril saying: “Oh Muhammad, you are the true messenger of Allah!” So he calmed down and went home. This happened each time the revelation was interrupted».
The hadith77 says that on leaving the cave Muhammad witnessed the revelation again. He saw a giant angel (black, according to hadith reports) reaching the skies and sitting on a throne. Wherever Muhammad turned, he kept seeing the vision. He was horrified by the sight, by that terrible vision haunting him.
How shall we interpret the vision? There were visions indeed. There is ample evidence of Muhammad’s falling into a trance, as attested by eyewitnesses. He bathed in sweat in cold weather or blushed to the roots of his hair. Some say that he even lost consciousness and frothed at the mouth but the hadith deny the evidence. Anyway, here are some points to consider.
First, the visions were accompanied with violence; second, the angel never introduce himself, third, the angel does not deliver of the dread. Remember what archangel Gabriel visiting Virgin Mary said first? “Hail you the Blessed”. And Zacharias was told: “Do not be afraid”. If Zacharias and the Holy Mother were told not to be afraid, why was Muhammad not soothed by his angel? In fact, the latter seems to enjoy torturing the man.
The Russian term “bes” is known to derive from the Sanskrit “horrifying, scaring”. Many people may have suffered demoniacal assaults making them sick, horrified and scared to death. And we know the remedy – the sign of the cross, for the condition is caused by the torturing devil.
It is of interest that similar things happened to our ancient saints. The Holy Fathers mention an elder visited by an angel being rather vague but not black. By contrast, it was a light angel. As we know from the Script, Satan can appear in the guise of a light angel. The visitor said: “I am archangel Gabriel, and God has appointed you through me as a great messenger”. The elder retorted: “Who am I to be appointed by God? I only serve Christ the Savior” and crossed himself. The false archangel Gabriel vanished immediately. The situation is quite similar except that the elder was protected against his destroyer by a sign of the cross, while Muhammad was not.
Anthony the Great78 says that evil spirits often visited him in the guise of angels, offering gold or presenting themselves as God’s agents, as follows: “Believe me, my children, I saw the devil disguised as an uncommon giant having the cheek to say that, “I am the Divine power and wisdom”. (The spirit visiting Muhammad also presented himself as God’s spirit, the holy spirit, or the spirit of Allah). “Ask for whatever you wish, Anthony”. What was Anthony’s response? Anthony says: “But I spat at his mouth and attacked him with all my might in the name of Christ. The sham giant waned in my hands”.
Quite a different attitude! Why so? Muhammad has chosen the way of pride at the onset. He denies the holy community and the revelation. He wants to explore new ways. Explorers generally discover new ways though by no means for the best.
Another interesting point is that after the vision Muhammad was haunted by terrifying suicidal thoughts. Persistent craving for suicide is a remarkable trend. It is only inhibited by the spirit who seems to hook him to a spiritual needle, if you will. What does this indicate? This indicates subjection to satanic influence.
As a matter of fact, this is what Muhammad believed. For a long time he believed in being attacked by shaytan – that is, Satan (shaytan being the Arabic version of Satan). It was only Khadijah, his wife, who could assure him that he was actually God’s agent, a faithful servant of God. Why? Because he does well.
What a logic! Our rule is to shun our good works, is it not? One should never boast of one’s good works. Muhammad’s wife, however, supports his vanity. We must remember that our good works are done with God’s strength and for God’s sake. Yet the wife says: “But you did it by yourself, and it means that God will not abandon you”. There is no sin like pride, and he is given to pride.
The revelations occurred regularly in a while. And the messenger, the false agent of Allah, the angel, sent him preaching. Muhammad preached for 13 years (not quite, because he only had revelations but was not sent preaching in the first three years). Then he preached in Mecca for another decade, and failed. He was mocked and only supported by a small community of neophyte Muslims, and, of course, by Khadijah.
Having failed with preaching, Muhammad made a mistake: being in desperate straits, his most loyal allies seeking refuge from persecution with the Christian ruler of Ethiopia, the Negus79, he decided to make peace with heathen Quraysh80. He recited the Quran81 one day and coming to the phrase: “have ye thought upon Al-Lat and Al-«Uzza and Manat, the third, the other?” – the three goddesses worshipped by Arabs – he said: “Here are the noble cranes to rely upon for protection”.
In fact, he followed the primary pagan principle allowing simultaneous worship of their deities and the Creator. The idea is quite on modern lines. Some people want to visit magicians and sorcerers, and worship God, promoting a permissive society.
Muhammad was inspired to reconcile with heathens but Muslims reproached him for contradicting his own censure on paganism. And Jibril said that Satan inserted his verses in the revelation of Allah. Satan crept in and inserted a wrong text to confuse Muhammad. Jibril reassured Muhammad, saying: “Never mind, do not worry. In fact, no prophet will escape Satan putting evil in his mind”.
A fascinating version indeed! A revelation occurs but the author is of no importance.
Doubting whether the revelation came from God or from the devil, Muhammad resorted to a test: Khadijah said that, “if it is Satan, he must be voluptuous. Let us test it: you sit down and I sit behind you. Tell me when Jibril arrives”. Jibril came, Khadijah shed her veil and was naked. Muhammad asked: Can you see Jibril? No, – she said, – he retired. You can see now that he is the angel of God. If he was not, he would fall upon me”.
A strange argument considering that an angel cannot marry, for angels are sexless. A peculiar and most superstitious view indeed!
Of course, the test is immaterial. Spirits are actually tested by other criteria. In the case of revelation, as John the Divine says, “every spirit which says that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit which does not say this is not from God: this is the spirit of Antichrist”82.
In fact, the Old Testament says that if a prophet or dream-teller appears with a sign or a miracle, and the sign and the miracle come true, and he says: “Let us go after other gods, which are strange to you, and give them worship”, do not obey him even then, for the prophet wants you to abandon the God of your fathers, who delivered you from Egypt, the land of slavery83.
Muhammad never applied the criterion. His spirit never spoke to him of Jesus Christ. Notice that the Holy Fathers do not say that the apparition will reject Him. He will not confess and celebrate the name of Jesus Christ Incarnated, God the Son, the Son of Man and, at the same time, the Son of God.
Muhammad did not profess the faith but renewed the doctrine, rejecting the God of the Prophets. Evil interference was obvious, and the results represent the spirit of ill will and hostility.
Meanwhile, the heathens wanted Muhammad to produce some signs. Ibn Hisham describes in a most vivid manner how the Quraysh, Muhammad’s kinsmen, came to him saying: “You know that you say you are the agent of Allah, and you know that we love gold, we love silver, we love women, and we love ample gain. We know that you love all these too. You are a businessman; you do business and do it well. So you cannot say that you are no grabber. Make a heap of gold appear here”. He answers: “I cannot do this”. They say: “Well, we had a shaykh84. He was a good man, the shaykh. He died. Raise him from the dead”. He says: “I cannot do it either”. Then they say: “Well, you threaten us with eternal fire if we do not obey you. Well, take the fire down. Right now, a little, just a bit. Make a bit of the sky fall on us. Let us have the awards or suffer the retributions you threaten us with”. He answers: “I can do neither. I am only a messenger. And the Quran is my only witness”. They say: “All right, no harm. We know a man is teaching you. But we do not trust him, no way. We do not trust you either. We do not pay attention to you clacking tongue. Who are you to talk anyway?”
Yet Muslims told them that, “he is a true messenger, for he is no sorcerer, poet or priest”. He is no sorcerer for he does not blow or spit on strings (common witchcraft involving string stretching, incantation and spitting across, to put an evil curse). He is no poet for his the Quran is unrhymed. And, he is no priest for the lack of proper rituals accepted among the Arabs. Consequently, he is a Prophet. It never occurred to them that he might be an imposter, even though it was so simple and obvious. Interestingly, when early Muslims came to Ethiopia, one of them adopted Christianity because the beauty of it surpassed all the exhortations of Muhammad.
When Khadijah and Muhammad’s protector (who never adopted Islam but protected him to the end of his days) died, Muhammad and his advisors were put under boycott and he was in danger of death. An attempt was made on his life when some tribes colluded to have their young men saber Muhammad at night for his preaching and refusal of their gods. They wanted to involve as many as possible in the feud, to avoid individual responsibility. Having surmised the design, Muhammad asked a friend to lie down in his bed and cover himself with his blanket. The killers wanted to see the victim first, but found Ali in his stead. They spared his life, and Muhammad escaped to Medina where he had already established contacts and where most of his community had moved.
Muhammad flees to Medina in 622. The year marks the Muslim era, the Hijrah85. He travels with his friend Ali. They are pursued. An interesting story describes Muhammad as a singular man making contact with an alternative world.
A party is chasing him, led by a man locating Muhammad with magic arrows. Yet the arrows say: “Do not pursue him”. He retorts: “I will pursue him all the same”. The dialogue is repeated three times. At last, when the sorcerer still refuses to do as the arrows command, his horse falls with broken legs, and the pursuer falls to the ground and sees a black whirlwind. Recognizing that Muhammad is protected, he returns to Mecca, and Muhammad escapes to Medina. Was it an intercession? If so, who was the author?
Having quarreled with Judaic tribes in Medina, Muhammad changes the direction of worship. While he used to bow towards Jerusalem as the Hebrew do, he now turns to the Kaaba surrounded with idols at the time. There is a substantial Muslim community, for jobs are scarce and means of subsistence poor. The question is of survival. Then Muhammad has the blessing of Allah for robbery.
In a sacred month, Muslims makes a surprise attack on a Quraysh caravan, kills the guards (only two escaping) and brings home rich plunder. The robbers were somewhat embarrassed. Plundering a caravan was simple and easy. Arabs regarded robbery as natural. No daily plunder was a wasted life. Well, they were barbaric tribes, don’t you forget it. There was the primitive system. So caravans could be plundered. Yet there were some sacred months – four in a year – when war, plunder and the like were forbidden. And they did it in a forbidden month!
Muhammad reassured them saying that Allah “speaks bad of wars in forbidden months but much worse of harassing the servants of Allah. So don’t worry, you did well”.
The enraged Quraysh, Muhammad’s enemies, equip a great army and march on Medina, declaring war on Muhammad. Muhammad’s army crushes Quraysh.
The objective truth is that Muhammad kindly allowed them to buy out the captives except for his most ardent enemies. He only made them swear to give up fighting against Muslims. The tale of the Battle of Badr86 also demonstrates the unforgiving nature of Muhammad. Thus after the defeat he ordered to find an old enemy of his, dead or alive. The man could be identified by a wound in his leg. Muhammad fought with him as a boy and won, inflicting a wound. The scar would be still visible. And whoever found the man should bring his head.
Can you imagine remembering a six-year old boy’s fight! And the fight won at that! The idea of having the man’s head!
The man was found among the wounded, and was beheaded. His head was brought to Muhammad who said: “Great is the Allah allowing me to overcome my enemies”. Then he had the bodies thrown in a well and said as if addressing them: “You see that you persecuted me for nothing? May you suffer now”. His team-mates wondered: “Why, they can hear you no better than rocks”. And Muhammed retorted: “They hear me better than you do”. (Incidentally, this was the origin of the Islamic conception of the soul staying in the body after death. It probably leaves the body and then comes back to stay. Sinners have their souls suffering within the body).
Quraysh then fit out a new army and Muhammad, inspired with recent victory, told his men that it was Allah’s will. “You see that Allah is on your side and will grant you a greater victory”. They met Quraysh at Mount Uhud87. And Muhammad cheered up his men as follows: “You must know for certain that your victory is ensured, your enemies will scatter, and you will triumph over the infidels”.
Quite the contrary, Muslims were utterly defeated, Muhammad was stricken with a stone in his face, losing his front teeth and fainting, covered with blood, so that Quraysh mistook him for the dead and would not chase the escaping Muslims. They were happy to do away with the faith. However, Muhammad came to consciousness and blamed the Muslims whose inadequate devotion to Allah caused the defeat.
Here is a point to consider. What would you call a man prophesying in the name of God if the prophesy fails to pass? You would call him a false prophet. What is the general opinion? The general opinion is that the author of unrealized prophesies is a false prophet not to be listened do or frightened by. He is a traitor daring to speak in the name of God. And the Prophet Jeremiah describes the Lord saying: “I gave them no orders, and I said nothing to them: what they say to you is a false vision and wonder-working words without substance, the deceit of their hearts”88.
When Quraysh were told that Muhammad survived, they equipped a great army again to crush him. But Persian Muslim suggested digging a trench around Medina. Quraysh did not know how to cross the dig as they were nomads and could not assault fortifications. So they retreated after a brief siege. That is how Muhammad gained the advantage.
Muhammad arranged with the Meccans to be let in. He approached the city with his army, and the Meccans had him promise to spare the surrendered (displeasing the Muslims, of course). Muhammad made a ceremonial entry in Mecca not long before his death. He destroyed all idols surrounding the Kaaba, worshipped the black rock, and was the sovereign ruler of Mecca. Several days after he had all the residents adopt Islam on penalty of death. Some of his enemies, opponents and poets believing their own verse superior to the Quran, were put to death.
What was all this about? In fact, the principal argument for the Quran as an exceptional revelation of God was its beauty, for no one could write as beautifully as Muhammad. So the impudent authors were beheaded immediately to prevent potential rivalry. Competence was nipped in the bud.
Muhammad was making ready for the war against Byzantine. His army, however, failed to encounter the enemy89, also in spite of his prophecy. He wished to make war by himself but suddenly became quite sick and died in the arms of his favorite wife Aishah90.
He was unconscious but regained consciousness the day before his death and went to the mosque to speak in this way: “Harken! The fire is flaring up. Discord darker than night is approaching. For the love of Allah, bear no malice against me. For you know that I only permitted what the Quran permits and forbade what the Quran forbids”91. Then he felt worse and died in Aishah’s arms.
To revert to Muhammad’s prophetic service. Revelations were granted him until the end of his days but the greatest one in his view was the flight to heavens astride the magic horse al-Buraq92 when staying in Mecca before the Hijirah 93 .
The angel Jibril appeared to him one night and had him mount a beast with the head of a mule and a human face, al-Buraq by name. Al-Buraq carried him instantly to the Temple of Solomon in Jerusalem (which had not been there for some six hundred years though he says it was). He later described the Temple of Solomon (to everyone’s wonder as the Temple is generally known to be nonexistent). He then once again mounted the Buraq and was taken to the various heavens. In the First heaven he met Adam, the righteous men and sinners. The sinners were tortured and the righteous men reveled. In the second heaven he met Jesus Christ and John the Baptist. So he met various earlier prophets in various heavens until he met Abraham in the last and seventh heaven and, having crossed a garden and coming to the last blooming lotus, he saw Allah.
No explicit description of Allah is available today. In a doubtful hadith, Muhammad describes Allah as a green cylinder. But the hadith is thought to be of little value and should not be referred to in discussion with Muslims. Anyway, according to the hadith, he saw the green figure.
Allah instructed him to offer prayers 50 times per day.
On his return, Moses asked: “How many prayers were you told to offer?” He said fifty. Moses: “Go back and ask to reduce the number”. The Prophet returned and asked to reduce it to 10 times. And he continued asking until it was reduced to 5.
Moses urged him to ask again but Muhammad answered: “I am ashamed to ask of reduced prayers and will not do it anymore”.
So Muslims are to offer their 5 namaz per day.
What kind of a story is it? There must be some truth in it. For example, riding the great horse, he saw a halting caravan, and a jug of water covered with a cloth against flies. He took off the cloth, drank the water, put the cloth in place, and was carried on. Another text describes him discovering a runaway female camel in Syria. He told Quraysh what he had seen, and they found the camel right there. Interestingly, however, his beloved wife Aishah said that Muhammad traveled with his soul only while his body stayed in his bed. The flight seems somewhat shamanic.
A clue to the phenomena is found in a story of Anthony the Great. In the days of his hermitage he was sitting at the mouth of his cave one day, weaving baskets for visiting pilgrims. He suddenly felt that a rod he was holding was drawn from behind. He turned back and saw a creature looking like a donkey with a human face. Do you remember it? It was al-Buraq who came to frighten him in company with various reptiles. Anthony the Great spoke to the creature saying: “I am Anthony, and if you want me, here I am. If God wants you to kill me, do so, and if not, go away” and made the sign of the cross over it. The beast and all the frights vanished at once. Anthony uttered: “Confound the creature meddling with my baskets” and kept on weaving. It is clear who the apparitions were.
Popular opinion subsequently ascribed various signs to Muhammad. One was water running his fingers. It was also said that when he snapped his fingers, the moon broke in two, and the mountain was seen in between. The tales actually remind us of the wonders produced by sorcerers like Simon Magus or Doctor Faustus94.
Compare the “Life of Muhammad” and a tale of Doctor Faustus… The stories are compatible, you know! Doctor Faustus drills a hole in the wooden floor and brings out wine, just like the case in question. The wonders are very similar, actually absurd and non-provable. Muhammad never healed a sick man or a blind man, nor did he raise anyone from the dead. He did well to none. His wonders were all illusions, fantasies. Moreover, in all probability, he did not work them at all. Popular opinion developed at a much later time. And his wonders are getting even more illusionary with time. It is a popular error also associated with Jesus Christ, with all the false gospels and apocryphal works painting His life in quite fabulous colors.
In fact, Muhammad said that, unlike other prophets, he came with no signs, and his primary mission was the Quran. There were some visions but only imaginary and unnatural, and most probably, later authors invented Christian and Hebrew prophets working wonders to demonstrate their mission, which Muhammad never did. So that was their problem to solve.
Muhammad’s family life deserves special notice, being far from exemplary though considered otherwise. According to the Quran, Muhammad was privileged. He was entitled to 1/5 of the plunder, and an unlimited number of wives. This has interesting connotations.
The Quran says that Muhammad’s wives are mothers to Muslims. Muhammad, however, is not the father of Muslims. How can his wives be their mothers? Why, this is quite simple. The point is that one cannot marry one’s own mother. Muhammad worried about his wives getting married after his death, so he declared his wives to be inviolable. This is quite personal.
He had thirteen wives. Khadijah was the first, and there were other wives after her but only one, Aishah was virgin. She was his second wife and he married her a month after the death of Khadijah. He fell in love with Aishah when she was 6, and he married her and had sexual intercourse with her when she was 9. A girl of 9 is still regarded eligible for marriage in Islamic countries. Then he took other wives, mostly the widows of his brothers-in-arms.
His adopted son Zayd95 had a beautiful wife, and Muhammad fell in love. Then it was revealed to him that, first, he could have no adopted children. Well, let it go at that. Another revelation said that Zayd should divorce his wife, and so he did. And then Muhammad was inspired that he could take the divorcee for his wife. The revelations made to measure indeed! Of course, he was not quite happy with that wife because of the violent scenes of jealousy between her and Aishah. In fact, all his wives were at loggerheads with each other, and Muhammad was hard put to deal with them. So when Aishah surprised him with a concubine and scolded him, a fresh revelation said that wives abusing the Prophet would come to a bad end. The conflicts abated but smoldered until Muhammad’s death.
Of course, there was some good in Muhammad: he was fair enough, often charitable to those who needed food, clothes and the like. Moreover, his word was as good as gold and Arabs named him the Truthful or the Loyal. On the other hand, Muhammad was rancorous, vicious and dissolute at heart. Due to his inconsistent nature, he abandoned God and is deplorably staying in hell’s dens.
He said that he saw an approaching fire and was then enveloped in flames. It happened because he fell from God, failed to render Glory to God and to glorify the Holy Trinity, and never received baptism though he was acquainted with Christians and could adopt the true faith. Moreover, he allured many people still following his way and perishing in the course. He mistook an evil angel for God’s angel, the angel of light, and that dark angel deceived him as he had deceived Eve.
Khadijah argued for the presence of God’s angel in a very primitive way, and not without reason. Saint Paul warned: “ But I have a fear, that in some way, as Eve was tricked by the deceit of the snake, your minds may be turned away from their simple and holy love for Christ”96. Eve was tempted in innocence. She was seduced without considering Satan’s proposal. The same happened to Muhammad: he was seduced and proved defenseless against evil spirits. He had good reason to read the Quran regularly, apprehending evil intervention. He was afraid of magic spells until his death. He lived in fear and awe even though, as a God’s agent, he ought to be brave. But he was quite the reverse, for he had no inner witnessing of truth.
On him falls the prophecy in 3 Ezra of dragons of the desert seizing the earth97. Muhammad is the great dragon yielding to the enemy and ruining many who had faith in him. His service is carried on, service of the scourge. Muslims are the scourge for us when we fall from the arms of the Lord. If we are not dedicated to God, the one enticed by the eternal enemy will come and scourge us.
Nevertheless, this will not go on forever. The Script tells us that the kings of Arabia will eventually offer gifts to Christ. This is predicted in the Psalms of King David98. And we therefore believe that many Muslims will eventually adopt the veritable Christian faith, worship Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, and join our fraternal community. By way of example, mention may be made of many saints who had been Muslims before but then adopted Christian faith and Divine Revelation. It happened even in the days of Muhammad.
63Seal of the prophets (Khatam al-Nabiyyin), phrase occurs in Quran (al-Ahzab: The Allies 33:40: “Muhammad is not the father of any man among you, but he is the messenger of Allah and the Seal of the Prophets; and Allah is ever Aware of all things”), referring to Muhammad, and is regarded by Muslims as meaning that he is the last of the series of prophets that began with Adam. Some biographers of the Prophet mention that he had a physical mark (seal) of some sort between his shoulders that was regarded as one of the signs of his prophethood.
64Hubbard, Lafayette Ron (1911–1986), American author known as a founder of Dianetics and Scientology. His works have won conflicting ratings.
65Grabovoy, Grigory Petrovich (b. 1963) declared himself the Second Messiah capable of raising people from the dead, achieving teleportation, healing AIDS and cancer in every stage, and identifying faults in electronics at a distance. He was convicted to eight-year imprisonment under Russian Federation Criminal Code Article 159 of “Fraudulent Activities”. He gained notoriety when, according to various sources, he promised the Beslan families to raise victims of terrorism for money.
66Genesis 16, 12.
67St. Arethas and his 4299 martyrs suffered for Christ the King in the 5th century. Arethas was the leader of the Christian community of Najran in Grabia. The Arabian (Himyarite) prince Jew Dhu Nuwas wished to destroy Christianity in the country and ordered to kill all Christian adepts. The people of Najran remained constant in their faith, and Dhu Nuwas brought a large army to destroy the city. The royal herald announced at the walls of Najran that Dhu Nuwas would spare the lives of those who renounced the Crucified Man of Galilee and His Cross. Failing to take the city by force, Dhu Nuwas deceived the Christians, swearing that he would not make them convert but would only lay Najran under tribute. The people ignored Arethas’s advice, believed Dhu Nuwas and opened the gates. More than four hundred thousand Christians, men, women, old people and children of Najran and neighboring villages, suffered martyrdom for Christ the Savior.
68Shem and Ham are the scriptural sons of Noah “and from them all the earth was peopled” after the Flood (Genesis 9, 18).
69Emir Khattab, professional terrorist and leader of armed units in the self-constituted Chechen republic of Ichkeria, killed.
70The Ghassanids (al-Ghasasinah, also Banu Ghassan “Sons of Ghassan), dynasty in the kingdom of Jabiyah, East Palestine (Jordan) until 636.
71Ibn Hisham, Abu Muhammad Abd Jamal al-Malik (d. 827), Arabian scholar from Basra. His “Biography of the Prophet Muhammad” represents the most comprehensive evidence of Muhammad’s life and work. It ranks as the third important source of Islam (after the Quran and the Hadithat).
72Khadijah bint Khuwaylid (d. ca 618), first and only (until her death) wife of Prophet Muhammad, founder of Islam. Muhammad only took other wife after her death. Revered as a good and faithful wife, mother, and Muslim.
73Mount Hira, mountain near Mecca, the cradle of Islam, said to have been the scene of the first revelation given to Muhammad on the Night of Destiny (laylat al-qadr). The Prophet meditated in the cave at the summit of the mountain. Also known as Jabal al-Nur, the Mountain of Light.
74Isaiah 6, 6–7: “Then a winged one came to me with a burning coal in his hand, which he had taken from off the altar with the fire-spoon. And after touching my mouth with it, he said, See, your lips have been touched with this; and your evil is taken away, and you are made clean from sin”.
75Isaiah 6, 8: “And the voice of the Lord came to my ears, saying, Whom am I to send, and who will go for us? Then I said, Here am I, send me”.
76Warakah ibn Nawfal ibn Asad, Christian cousin of Muhammad’s first wife, Khadijah. According to tradition, assured Muhammad that his call to prophecy and message genuinely from God.
77Sahih al-Buhari, one of six works of hadith widely recognized as authentic and canonical and considered the most authoritative source of hadith along with Sahih Muslim. Compiled and codified in the ninth century by Muhammad ibn Ismail al-Bukhari. For this particular hadith see ch.1, 4.
78Anthony the Great, saint (c. 251–356), founder of Christian monasticism, a hermit in Egypt.
79Negus (in full form: “king of kings”), title of the emperor of Ethiopia until the subversion of monarchy in 1975. Negus was the head of the state and the head of the government, holding absolute executive and legislative authority.
80Quraysh, powerful Meccan tribe at the time of the Prophet Muhammad; descendants of Qusayy, who united them. Muhammad was born into the Hashemite clan of the Quraysh tribe. The Quraysh named after their ancestor. Muhammad met with no sympathy among his fellow tribesmen but declared the Quraysh dialect to be the perfect Arabic language, which resulted in the dialect emerging as the literary language. Presently the keys to the Kaaba are held by the Quraysh clan. Surah al-Quraysh: The Quraish 106 in the Quran is directed at them.
81an-Najm: The Star 53:19–20.
821John 4, 2–3.
83Deuteronomy 13, 1–3: “If ever you have among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams and he gives you a sign or a wonder, And the sign or the wonder takes place, and he says to you, Let us go after other gods, which are strange to you, and give them worship; Then give no attention to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God is testing you, to see if all the love of your heart and soul is given to him”.
84Shaykh, a pre-Islamic honorific title of princes or chiefs of nomadic tribes in Arabia. The term “sahaykh al-din” also has been applied to men who posses scriptural learning; a village elder in the Levant and the Middle East; sometimes, just a venerable man. Heads of religious orders are called shaykh, as are Quranic scholars, jurists, and those who preach and lead prayers in the mosque.
85Hijrah (migration or wihdrawal) , typically refers to the migration of Muhammad and his Companions from Mecca to Medina in 622 C.E, the first year in the Islamic calendar. Hijrah was proclaimed as the beginning of the Muslim era under Caliph Omar I (634–644). The initial date is the 1st day of the 1st month (Muharram) 622 – 16 July 622.
86The Battle of Badr, the first important battle between Muslims and Quraysh (there were minor armed conflicts between Muslims and residents of Mecca in 623 and 624) fought in Hejaz (West Arabia) in the second year of Hijrah on the seventeenth day of Ramadan, Friday morning 17 March 624. Seen as a symbol of victory of Islam over polytheism and unbelief. It was a significant victory for Muslims and a major landmark in their fight against Quraysh. This helped to promote Islam until their utter defeat in the battle of Uhud. Egyptians used “Operation Badr” as a code name for the 1973 Egyptian-Israeli war.
87The Battle of Uhud was fought on 23 March 625 at Mount Uhud in North-West Arabia by the Muslim community of Medina, led by Prophet Muhammad, and Quraysh forces commanded by Abu Sufyan from Mecca. The Quraysh requited for the battle of Badr won by Muslims in 624.
88Jeremiah 14, 14.
89No Greek description is available but in the Arabic world the Byzantine campaign is described as a great historic event (Battle of Tabuk). Most probably, however, the armies never met.
90Aishah, daughter of first caliph, Abu Bakr; youngest and reputedly favorite wife of Muhammad. With Muhammad when he died.
91Ibn Hisham “Life of the Prophet”, chapter on The Death of the Prophet.
92Buraq, winged creature, usually depicted as a horse, which Muhammad mounted and rode to Jerusalem, through seven heavens, hell, and paradise, into the presence of God, and back to earth, according to the story of his Night Journey. The name derives either from the Arabic “blaze”, “glare, “shine”; or from the Persian “bara” – “steed”.
93Hijirath (dial. Hijir), Muhammad’s migration from Mecca to Medina. Beginning of the year in Islamic Calendar (Miladi 16/VII.622).
94Simon Magus, magician mentioned in the New Testament and some other sources; Doctor Faustus, necromancer living in Germany in the second part of the 16th century, his legendary biography developed during the Reformation and has since been the subject of many literary works in Europe.
95Zeyd ibn Sabith, a major associate of and private secretary to Prophet Muhammad. He chaired a commission for the final formulation of the Quran.
962Corinthians 11, 3.
973 Ezra 15, 29–31.
98The Psalms 71, 10.
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