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?


  1. The Prophet’s punishment sent a message to every other bandit in the region and hence banditry was eliminated. What would you say if you knew that the deterrent effect of killing these bandits actually resulted in fewer innocent deaths in the long run?

  2. I think you've just proved Spinoza's point. Your religion has forced you to justify torture. Or do you disagree that putting red-hot irons in people's eyes is torture?

  3. Banditry was eliminated? Like the practice of robbing pilgrims on the way to Haj that flourished until the 20th century

  4. Anyone defending this sort of act and stating that the torture is justified due to it resulting in nore banditry is ridiculous!
    I wonder if you would agree with bush having known terrorists tortured to prevent further acts of terrorism on innocent people being justified?? If it help cut out that sort of banditry?

    The same logic applies....I call it 'flying donkey logic'

  5. Islam is one of the best religion in this world.
    The rules in Islam are perfect, thats the reason Muslim majority countries are much developed

    Here is on of the best Free Muslim Matrimony site...Have a look

    1. I don't normally publish comments with adverts, but I thought readers might appreciate a chuckle...

    2. KAHDW

      Just discovered your blog, and as an agnostic with a background in Islam and Middle East studies, I have a few issues.

      1.) You quote hadith like they mean something. Most hadith are trash. Even among the so-called "sound-hadith", their are many conflicting accounts, errors, and general nonsense that makes taking them at face value a fool's errand.

      2.) You quote followers of Islam (like Ayatollah K.), and use their statements as an indictment on Islam. This is gives whatever conclusion you were trying to reach, whether right or wrong, the credibility of used toilet paper.

      3.) You resort to ad hominem attacks to avoid getting into a logical debate, where there's a possibility you could lose.

      Again, these are the major problems I've found after only a brief skim through a few articles. We both seem to be followers the schools called "Logic and Reason", but I'm sad to see precious little of that on this blog.

    3. Hi Anon,
      Thanks for your comment. Regarding the Hadith - I agree that they are inherently ridiculous. But Sunni Muslims are obliged to turn to them when attempting to interpret the Qur'an. If Sunni Muslims feel like you and dismiss the hadith then they must surely be nothing more than Qur'anists - by the strict rules laid down in Islam
      With regard to your other criticisms - I'd be delighted to take issue if you give me some concrete examples.

    4. KAHDW

      1.) No, actually, their is some debate on this, and based on the Quran, their is actually no need to rely on Hadiths as we know them.

      2.) I can't recall which article the Ayatollah Khomeini thing was on, though with more searching I'll find it. Basically, you quoted one of his many crazed statements, then went on to "show" how this proves certain beliefs a Muslim had were wrong. That's just the intellectual equivalent of wet carpet.

      3.) On the ad-hominem. You attempted to discredit "The Developing Human", by discrediting a co-author Abdul Majeed. You did this not by addressing his or the books claims, but braying about how Majeed referenced Osama Bin Ladin, degraded women, has Saudi funding, and advertised a false cure for aids. People with half a brain look at that article, and consider your conclusion worthless. If they are less kind, they don't take anything you say even remotely serious ever again.

    5. 1. There may be "some debate" but as you must know, the overwhelming majority of Muslims consider the hadith to be essential supplements to and clarifications of the Quran. The Qur'an is infamously opaque in certain passages - without explanation or clarification it is impossible to work out what the author means
      2. My comment on Khomeini was followed by this: "this vicious, vacuous denial of everything that makes life worth living has at its heart a kernel of truth about Islam. It's that word "test"."
      You see I did not suggest that this quote proved anything other than it contained a the idea that life was a test. Do you deny that that is a basic tenet of Islam?
      3.With regard to The Developing Human- I think it is reasonable to bring to people's attention that the author responsible for the "Islamic additions" to the text book (those parts which claim miraculous knowledge on the part of the Qur'an - were written by a man who, inter alia, has claimed he has found a cure for aids, believes women can't talk and think at the same time and was responsible for the Commission on Scientific Signs - in short, a mad charlatan. I thought it relevant as well to mention that a world renowned terrorist supported the publication of the book. What people make of such information is surely up to them but there are many Muslims, my friend included, who have no idea about these things and are tricked into believing that that this book is a reliable and scholarly work. It is anything but.

    6. KAHPW

      1.) The fact that a majority of Muslims may believe that Hadith are sound doesn't make it true. You are using a false premise to prove a conclusion, that may or may not be correct. It doesn't matter though, since the argument was so poorly constructed, that it negates anything you were trying to say.

      2.) Another example. Your conclusion is likely correct (I agree with it at least), but quoting Khomeini as a way to prove or illustrate this, is fallacious, rendering your whole argument, and its otherwise correct conclusion ,invalid.

      3.) You may think it relevant to describe the co--author as a "mad-charlatan", but its not relevant. If he were the Devil incarnate, it wouldn't be relevant. If you want to discredit a author's work, you need to address and refute his claims in a logical manner, not attempt to deface his personage to avoid the issues altogether.

    7. 3. It isn't relevant that the author of a book quoted by Muslim converts as evidence for the existence of miraculous knowledge in the Qur'an and thus as a major reason for confirming them in their decision to convert... is two sandwiches short of a picnic? Really? He bases his argument on science and yet his "science" in other areas is so laughably inept that even most Muslims are embarassed by his pronouncements. And in any case, I have (as have many others) repeatedly refuted the claims in a logical manner. Please see my many posts on the matter.
      2. I fail to see how my choice of illustration "renders the whole argument invalid". You agree that Islam dictates that this life is a test and thus you agree with my argument.
      1. I have never said that the hadith are true. I doubt it very much... My argument rests upon the fact that Muslims must believe in their veracity. Another reason to question the whole basis of Islam.

    8. In the Oct 15 post, Anon. states "The fact that a majority of Muslims may believe that Hadith are sound doesn't make it true. You are using a false premise to prove a conclusion, that may or may not be correct."

      Spinoza is not saying the Hadith are true. He is saying they are an important part of Islam, which is an undeniably accurate statement.

      The Catholic Church teaches that during the sacrament of holy communion, the bread and wine are literally transformed into the body and blood of Christ. That is ridiculous but it is what the Church actually teaches. By your logic, I cannot criticize Catholicism for advancing a silly theological claim because the claim itself is so obviously false. Do you see how flawed your argument is?

  6. With the exception of handful of countries, we notice that crime is lower in places that use some form of torture as punishment today. As an example, Singapore, with it's stringent penal system, has the lowest crime in that region, only a small fraction of the crime prevalent in neighboring countries. In my opinion, it is fair to punish offenders considering what their innocent victims had to go through a well as for the benefit of other potential innocent victims, who would have to face the same plight if not for the deterrence system.