Sunday, September 15, 2013

Muhammad - Test the Messenger

There is none to be worshipped but God and he (Muhammad) was the Messenger of God

To test whether this claim is true we must rationally investigate the historical narratives and testimonies concerning the life of the Prophet (peace be upon him).
Once we do this, we will be in a position to come to a balanced conclusion in this regard.
The above quote is taken from the dawah (evangelical Muslim) site, iERA. As is usually the case on this site, the author is keen to convince his readers of the rational, evidence-based approach to judging the veracity of the claim that Muhammad was the final messenger of God.
He tells us how we must investigate the historical narratives and testimonies concerning the life of the Prophet.
As someone interested in such matters because of the conversion of a friend, I have done exactly that.
I set out with a simple set of criteria in mind: 
i. the narratives and testimonies should be as authentic as possible (accepted by Muslims as 100% genuine) ii. and such testimonies should not for one moment cast Muhammad in a light other than the generous, kind, spiritual and inspiring figure one would expect God to choose as his final messenger and example to mankind. 
If I found any evidence that Muhammad fell below these standards then I could reasonably reject Islam as false using the empirical, rational approach so apparently beloved of the new-wave dawah movement, as personified by the expert researchers at iERA.
What if, for example, I found stories in the hadith of Bukhari (the epitome of reliable historical narrative for Muslims) relating how Muhammad, the soi-disant final messenger of God, used torture? That would certainly make me think twice about believing God would have chosen such a person to act as the role model for humans for the rest of time. 
And that is exactly what we do find: God so loves mankind that he sends to us as his example of how we should behave towards one another someone who used torture as a punishment. 
volume 8, Book 82, Number 796:Narrated Anas:A group of people from 'Ukl (tribe) came to the Prophet and they were living with the people of As-Suffa, but they became ill as the climate of Medina did not suit them, so they said, "O Allah's Apostle! Provide us with milk." The Prophet said, I see no other way for you than to use the camels of Allah's Apostle." So they went and drank the milk and urine of the camels, (as medicine) and became healthy and fat. Then they killed the shepherd and took the camels away. When a help-seeker came to Allah's Apostle, he sent some men in their pursuit, and they were captured and brought before mid day.The Prophet ordered for some iron pieces to be made red hot, and their eyes were branded with them and their hands and feet were cut off and were not cauterized. Then they were put at a place called Al-Harra, and when they asked for water to drink they were not given till they died. (Abu Qilaba said, "Those people committed theft and murder and fought against Allah and His Apostle.")
If God believes that someone who burns out people's eyes with red hot irons, cuts off their hands and feet leaving the wounds to bleed and then refuses them water in their dying moments for good measure, is a good example to us, then He is no God I wish to believe in, let alone worship.

So how is it that those at iERA who spend their lives convincing others to worship this God fail to reach the same conclusion that I have done? Is it that they are unaware of this story? Or do they, like my convert friend, indulge in the sort of cognitive dissonance required of those who seem to be able to hold two conflicting beliefs in their heads at the same time. When asked how he could believe that Muhammad was the best human ever while knowing he tortured the camel thieves so horribly, my friend replied that Muhammad's punishment was presumably so that others would never again commit such actions. Thus a good, kind, intelligent man was forced by his religion to defend torture.

Perhaps there is a Muslim out there who can explain to me how we are to believe on the one hand in Muhammad's near divinely perfect character whilst at the same time rationally accepting the truth of the historical testament to his burning out the eyes of thieves.

For as I am repeatedly being asked by doubtless good and moral Muslims in this blog to look for the presence of God, so I ask them how is it that they in turn can ignore the evidence for His absence that is staring them in the face?

Can you honestly tell me you have come to a balanced conclusion if you ignore the testimony of Muslims of Muhammad's depraved violence towards his fellow men?