Islam: Religion of Peace? Part 1 of 7
Islam: Religion of Peace? Part 2 of 7
Islam: Religion of Peace? Part 3 of 7
THE SUNNA OF MUHAMMAD
Nevertheless, perhaps these violent verses are simply taken out of context. We need only look to Muhammad to find out since the most telling indication of how these verses are to be interpreted comes from examining the sunna of the Prophet himself. If anyone knows the proper context of these verses and how they should be applied it is Muhammad. After all, Muhammad is the receiver of these revelations and the restorer of true monotheism by the commissioning of Allah. He is the final and greatest prophet to mankind and the example which one and a half billion Muslims seek to emulate in their everyday life. He is held by Muslims to be beyond sin and the perfect moral example for humankind. Kamal ud Din ad Damiri states, “Mohammed is the most favored of mankind, the most honored of all apostles, the prophet of mercy…He is the best of prophets, and his nation is the best of nations;…He was perfect in intellect, and was of noble origin. He had an absolutely graceful form, complete generosity, perfect bravery, excessive humility, useful knowledge…perfect fear of God and sublime piety. He was the most eloquent and the most perfect of mankind in every variety of perfection.”(1) In order to find out if this is really the case we need to turn to our primary text on the matter, the Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq. It is important to remember that this biography is not some foreign text written by a disenchanted, anti-Islamic apologist in an attempt to discredit the Prophet. It is a very open, honest, and early look into the life of the prophet Muhammad written by one of his own followers. In reading this account the question must be asked, “Is this the life of a man beyond sin who sets the moral example which we are to emulate?”
THE SIRAT RASUL ALLAH: VIOLENCE PERSONIFIED
The Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq is a biography filled with violence, assassinations, and constant warfare. It is nearly 700 pages in length and yet the majority of the text, nearly 500 pages, focuses exclusively on the last ten years of Muhammad’s life in the city of Medina. It is during this Medinian period that numerous examples of violence and Jihad can be found. Therefore, because this Medinian period is the heart of the biography it should also be the focal point in examining the sunna of Muhammad. This period establishes the context in which the violent verses in the Qur’an were revealed and gives insight into the life of the Prophet himself.
Medina was a city filled with numerous indigenous Arab clans. Conflict in the city arose between the Jewish settlers and Arab immigrants of the tribes of al-Aws and al-Khazraj. Prior to Muhammad’s coming these quarrels had resulted in bloodshed and instability. Muhammad was seen as a wise and just outsider who could arbitrate and establish order.(2) He wrote the constitution of Medina(3) which regulated relations between the Arab clans and Muhammad’s followers. It states, “A believer shall not slay a believer…Believers are friends one to the other to the exclusion of outsiders…The believers must avenge the blood of one another shed in the way of God.”(4) It was during this period that Muhammad began his raiding campaigns that would continue in the following years. Ibn Ishaq tells us, “Then the apostle prepared for war in pursuance of God’s command to fight his enemies and to fight those polytheists who were near at hand whom God commanded him to fight.”(5) In approximately 623 A.D., Muhammad and his men began their raids of Meccan caravans with divine approval. However, the Prophet and his followers were unsuccessful in their first three raids. It was not until early 624 A.D. when they had their first success in raiding a caravan near Mecca, killing one man and taking two prisoners. The success of this raid was due in large part to the fact that it took place during the holy month of Ramadan and was not expected. Bloodshed during this month was to be avoided and Muhammad immediately began to receive criticism. Fortunately for Muhammad, he received a revelation from Allah justifying his raid. Sura 2:217 reads, “They ask thee concerning fighting in the Prohibited Month. Say: ‘Fighting therein is a grave (offence); but graver is it in the sight of Allah to prevent access to the path of Allah, to deny Him, to prevent access to the Sacred Mosque and drive out its members.’ Tumult and oppression are worse than slaughter.” Muhammad continued receiving these convenient revelations, suitable to the needs of the moment, which allowed him to establish political, legal, and military power and authority.
(1) As quoted in Norman L. Geisler and Abdul Saleeb, Answering Islam: The Crescent in Light of the Cross (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2002), 174.
(2) Trifkovic, 35.
(3) Ibn Ishaq, 231.
(4) Ibid., 232.
(5) Ibid., 280.