Muhammad and America
Analysis of Some of the Propaganda Attacks Against Islam
The above title is the subject of a speech given by priest Max Lucado in one of the churches in San Antonio, Texas, about a month and a half after the September 11th tragedy. The text of the speech has been published in writing.
The above article mentions a series of tragedies in the history of the United States of America and points to the aerial assaults on the World Trade Center and follows with the following questions:
Why do the present peoples (the Arabs) of the lands of the birth place of our holy book (Bible), rich with history of Christianity (instead of respecting us) consider us their enemies?
Why do they use phrases such as holy war, martyr and Paradise and consider us as Pagans?
Why do they sacrifice their own lives in suicidal missions and the Islamic millionaire (Bin Laden) plots against us and our children?
After introducing these questions, he tries to find the answers from the holy book by introducing three major religious figures: Abraham, Mohammad and Jesus (peace be upon them.) Certainly, if the speaker would analyze these divine authorities honestly and impartially he would answer his own questions, but unfortunately, with patriarchal and religious prejudice, and narrow-minded prejudgments one can never realize the truth.
In introducing Prophet Abraham, the writer, instead of using grace to characterize this prophet whose efforts and endeavors were nothing other than unconditional surrender to God and implementation of justice, monotheism and eradication of polytheism, he has found disunity and prejudice and has drawn the following two conclusions:
Palestinians have no right to the lands that the State of Israel has conquered and, even prior to that, God had given to Prophet Abraham, and his generations after him to the present generation of Jews who are legally and judicially the heirs and owners of these lands and the Arabs (Muslims) who claim to have conquered the land of Palestine in the past centuries, according to the divine adjudication, have no rights.
Of the two children of Prophet Abraham, Ishmael and Isaac, the latter is more genuine and more important since he was born of Abraham’s wife Sara, while Ishmael is the son of Hajar, Abraham’s maid, who during her time of infertility and because Sara had had a son, presented Abraham with a child. Therefor, the divine faith in the creation of the great religious sect has been verified with Isaac, and this prophet’s generation which ultimately concludes with Jesus, is more genuine than that of Ishmael of whom the Muslims are the descendents!
Such judgements, no matter how consistent and compatible with today’s contemporary and materialistic standards which consider material wealth a sign of power, are non-the-less inconsistent with the intellectual and spiritual standards of Jesus whose disciples and followers were mostly from the low casts of the society, and also with the claims of the Christian missionaries regarding egalitarian manifestation of classes among peoples.
The author briefly introduces Prophet Mohammad and by closing his eyes on the blessings of his mission, like the self-centered biographers, to his own satisfaction, describes the Prophet’s birth date, marriage, escape (!) (Hejrat, historical departure,) return to Mecca, and death…and presents the Prophet’s purpose, after settling in Medina, as conquering the Arabian Peninsula by slaughtering the masses, ransacking of property, forceful possession of women, and terrorist activities. He points out the slaughter of eight hundred men of a Jewish tribe
1 and enslaving women and children 2.
In the same section the author displays his deep anxiety with regards to the growth rate of the Muslims in the United States and the future of the world with the following numbers:
“There are more than a billion Muslims (about 1 out of every 5 people on the planet); the UN projects that by 2055 at least half of the global birthrate will be Islamic.”
“Muslims have targeted the United States with an aggressive missionary program. Saudi Arabia has given millions of dollars to Harvard and the University of Arkansas to fund Islamic study centers.”
“There are already more Muslims than Episcopalians in America, and, within ten years, Islam may be the second largest religion in the United States.”
“Between 1989 and 1998 the Islamic population in this country grew by 25%; there are now estimated to be between 4 and 7 million Muslims in the U.S.”
What is required for a sociological program and scientific research for discovering the roots of different societal problems is abstinence from presumption of guilt and avoidance of bigotry. Unfortunately the writer has not been ale to overcome such feelings and perceptions in the text he has presented.
After the above introduction, in the section regarding the Prophet Mohammad (ISLAM) the writer, in his own opinion, has offered three fundamental criticisms of the Islamic Canonical Law:
1. Lack of Guarantee of Salvation
According to the writer’s opinion, Christianity, in which Jesus sacrificed his life to take on the sins of his followers, and the cross as a symbol of the savior of the followers and the love of Jesus and believing in his role as the son of the Holy Father, are the guarantee of salvation. The writer considers the Islamic Cannon Law void of such guarantee and that exclusive reliance on good deeds and actions for the good of humanity is incomplete in itself and testifies that even the highest religious figures in Islam to the end of their lives will not be certain of entering heaven and attaining eternal salvation, and that one’s actions are purely judged according to that which is recorded by the angels and which shall be presented in the divine court. He says:
“…we have a cross-less and Christ-less religion. These people have never known a God of love. They have never known the sweetness of salvation. The only hope of salvation is good works. The only guarantee of salvation is death in a holy war. …Christians can look to Jesus and rejoice. The contrast between Christ and Mohammad is refreshing: Muslim offers no security of salvation, but Christ does. …Jesus offers a cross on which he died to pay for them.”
This judgement and reasoning is one hundred percent correct and acceptable by Muslims. Tens of verses in the Qur’an attest the fact that humans have their own actions as their pledge. There is nothing for humans other than their own actions, and heaven and hell are the natural consequences and harvest of the actions of humans.
The Qur’an considered the son of Noah as one of those who should drown since he was not pious, and considered the wives of the Prophets Noah and Lut as traitors and included them as deserving punishment. On the other hand, the Qur’an has considered the wife of Pharaoh, the most despotic historical figure but one who had good conduct, as one of the greatest women of the world.
The writer’s reasoning, from the point of view of the wishes and expectations of human beings, is totally understandable. If you give any human being the guarantee of salvation and not restrict his actions in any way, he will welcome you. That is to say, if we eliminate testing and the chance of failure from an academic class and give everyone the guarantee of passing to he next level, everyone would be happy and such school or college would be overwhelmed by the number of students who wish to register there! …But aside form our wishes and human understanding, in reality which one of the ways portrayed above is more compatible with human reasoning, logic, and experience?
How is it possible for the sacrifices of one person to replace and compensate for the probable crimes of the millions into the future? Even then many of the followers of Jesus and many other human beings who came before and after Jesus, sacrificed their lives for their faith in more dramatic ways. How can it be that it is only the effect of Jesus’ sacrifice that has salvation?
Yes, in Islam growth and perfection and one’s belief in God are only attainable by one’s own endeavors.
2. The Morality of Mohammad
The second point that the writer mentions in criticism of Islam, and one which in his opinion has been ignored in this religion is the morality of Mohammad and lack of affection, sympathy and ethics on his part. In his view, Mohammad was a very rough individual who under the cover of the sward had enhanced his way and in this endeavor ransacked commercial caravans and assassinated his critics. The writer has cited verses in defense of his claim and says that the guarantee of salvation for mankind signed by Jesus, is acquired in Islam through Jihad and wars. He says:
Islam offers no morality in Mohammad, but we find purity in Christ. Jesus didn’t kill people. He didn’t pirate caravans. Rather than dismiss women, he honored them. And, most of all, he rose from the dead.
With respect to the above the following points are worthy of consideration:
2.1) It is true that in the Qur’an there are many verses with regards to war and jihad, and that Mojahedeen who have sacrificed their belongings and their lives in the way God has put before them have been regarded as the most virtuous persons, and have been promised the eternal heaven, but these verses are defensive verses and are totally within the framework of divine orders (not for extending and expanding the borders of Islamic countries.) These verses are exclusively for facing the offenders and even then only to the extend of averting the offense and pushing the offender back to its own territory. Even though the Muslims, like the followers of other faiths in history, have engaged in territorial wars, in the divine book which is the basis of judgement of religious thought, in no way is there allowance for war based on belief.
Attention to historical facts would also make us aware of the truth of the matter. To discuss the idea of monotheism in the Arabian Peninsula during the age of ignorance when idolatry and infanticide were the order of the day, by a young orphan from the Quraish tribe, would certainly not have been without reaction, bigotry, and tribal and religious fanaticism. According to history, Mohammad (peace be upon him (PBUH)) ’s opponents, from the tribe of Quraish to the primitive tribes and the Jews living around Medina, did not in any way refrain from trying to totally eradicate and suppress this idea and its followers.
Yes, the Prophet of Islam has lead many wars but all of these wars have been for the purpose of defending the human beings, life, property and the principles of a minority whose only guilt was the worship of a single God (instead of idols). Which equitable and learned scholar can deny the injuries, tortures and executions, and protracted plots and the many other offenses against the Muslims that resulted in Muslims migrating and leaving their lands?
Now, at the beginning of the third millennium and the twenty first century, in the midst of the growth of the public opinion in the most advanced civilization having claims to science and freedom, we see that enduring such thoughts is hard for the liberally minded persons. Then how is it that we expect the Prophet of Islam or any other prophet not to have resorted to using a sward? If Jesus the son of Mary did not fight in wars, it is because he died at a young age and did not have a chance to initiate and lead a political sect so that for their protection he would have had to fight another army. Didn’t Moses and the prophets after him to the time of David and Solomon have extended wars for the protection of their religious sects? And didn’t the followers of Jesus start defensive wars for the protection of their faith, and even start world wars and regional wars?
2.2) With regards to attacks on commercial caravans, to which have been rare references in history during the early years of Muslim migration form Mecca to Medina, one has to consider this reality with a just and equitable mind. Muslims who already had their possessions confiscated due to boycotts and arrests of their members around Mecca, and as a result were under increasing pressure and torture, were forced to escape Mecca at night in order to save their own lives and left the rest of their belongings at the mercy of the plunders and pillages of the Quraish tribe.
If these people whose lands had been confiscated and who had been separated from their spouses and children and belongings for fear of their lives, came across a caravan in another land, carrying goods belonging to the offenders, did they not have the right to repossess some of what had been and still was their rightful belongings? Is this steeling at the most opportune time or is it reclaiming one’s right? Do you know that the battle of “Badr,” the first battle of the Muslims, took place because of such actions and the Prophet of Islam only gave permission to the migrants of Mecca (who had lost their possessions) to join the army and he did not allow the helpers from Medina to take part in the battle even though help was badly needed? Doesn’t this action by itself qualify the attacks on the caravans?
Nor do the assassinations of the ideological and political critics of which the prophet has been accused have any truth to them. Yes, in some non-factual cases such reports have been recorded in history, but none has been solely because of criticism or political and religious opposition. The most famous case is that of a person who misused the trust that the prophet had placed in him for helping to take care of the camels belonging to the people by first killing the camel care taker and stealing and selling the camels, and then seeking refuge with the enemy of Islam, thereby establishing a stance against the prophet of Islam. Is it possible to annul the punishment of a crime and the legal pursuit of the killer in the world today? Why does one consider this to be the assassination of the political critics and ignore this universal right? Only three or four cases of this type have been reported during the conquest of Mecca. Even though the prophet had recommended punishment for the criminals before the conquest of Mecca, all but one person, even the murderer of Hamzah the prophet’s uncle, were forgiven
And finally with regards to roughness and lack of ethics (!) on the part of the prophet whom according to the Qur’an, was a commiserate for the people of the world, and who was extremely kind, gentle and merciful and was commissioned to complete the ethical values of the human beings, we recommend the writer to study the articles written by unbiased Christian writers.
3. Victory Over the Grave
In this section the writer states:
Mohammad is dead. Muslims follow a dead man. At the core of Christianity is the resurrection of Christ. The empty tomb validates the claims of Christ and inspires his followers. Over five hundred people witnessed Christ in his resurrected form. The resurrected Mohammad has yet to be seen.
This statement by the writer, like the relationship between one’s salvation and one’s good deeds, from the Islamic point of view is totally correct. Yes, the Qur’an has introduced Mohammad (PBUH) as the only prophet with the responsibility of the safekeeping and delivering the divine word to mankind. In the battle of “Uhod,” a group of Muslims who had lost the will to fight because they thought Mohammad (PBUH) had died and were about to surrender, were admonished by the following verse:
“Muhammad is no more than an Apostle: many were the Apostles that passed away before him. If he died or were slain, will ye then turn back on your heels? If any did turn back on his heels, not the least harm will he do to God;…
The Qur’an strongly insists on the issue of Monotheism, that is worshiping one god and refraining from exaggerating and exceeding the bounds of elevating religious figures. That is why the Qur’an has stated the best quality of Mohammad (PBUH) as servitude in the service of God.
The Qur’an repeatedly stresses to the prophet that you are not the representative, the guardian (of faith,) the imposer (of religion,) and the dictator, that your only role is to profess the divine word and be the bearer of glad tidings for those worthy of receiving such news and the manifester of danger to those who have strayed from the path of the righteousness.
Many times in the Qur’an it is stated that guidance is exclusively in the hands of God and the Prophet, no matter how willing he may be in guiding the servitude, he will not be able to do it.
The Christians celebrate the birth of Christ which is a personal issue and the Muslims celebrate Eid Fetr which is at the end of the month of fasting, and Eid Ghorban which is at the end of the rituals of Hajj.
The origin of the Christian calendar is the birth of Christ and the origin of the Islamic calendar is the historic departure (Hijrah) of the believers from Mecca for Medina, which is an issue that has to do with the Islamic community and not the person of the Prophet. As a matter of fact, Christ as introduced in the Qur’an, is a model of pure servitude and total submission to God and void of the ornaments that have been associated with him by his followers in the later centuries.
Many times this verse from Jesus has been repeated in the Qur’an:
“Worship God, my Lord and your Lord.” (5:72)
The disciples who were the first true followers of Jesus understood and observed the limits of monotheism and polytheism correctly. According to the Qur’an, when Jesus asks for their help and says, “Who will help me in the way of God,” the disciples, instead of saying we will help you, say, “We are the helps of God [!],” and they add, “We have faith in God, be witness to the fact that we are Muslims.”
The point is to consider God to be ever-lasting and the resolver of human problems, the one who hears and sees, the one who is present and is a witness and the care taker, and this is not exclusive to the Muslims. The first followers of Jesus and today’s monotheists and pure Christians have and always have had the same opinion. Now if someone instead of practicing monotheism and purity seeks help from one of God’s creatures and considers him to be present in times of happiness and sorrow, then that is a matter between that person and his/her god. Neither having an empty tomb is a sign of virtue and superiority for a particular sect, nor having a full tomb is a sign of worshiping the dead.
He, who never dies, death and life are in his hands, and night and day, the moon and the sun and the stars are created by him, is worthy of being praised and worshipped and this is the essence of the word of all prophets, especially that of Jesus, the son of Mary (peace be upon them all.)
At the end of the article the writer concludes with the following from his writing:
“Mohammad and Christ are different. Islam and Christianity are different; they are not two different roads that lead to the same place. …Orthodox Islam and historical Christianity cannot both be true. To say that they are the same is like going out to the interstate and saying I-10 West and I-10 East both go to Houston. They don't, they can’t. It is impossible for both Christianity and Islam to be correct. They go two different directions.”
Yes, polytheism and monotheism, worshiping prophets and worshiping God, the way of the prophets and the way of the administrators of religion are two different ways, but according to the teachings of the Qur’an, prophets are different teachers of the same school and their message is the same. The followers of the prophets, like the students of the same school, follow the same curriculum and are part of the same family.
God recommends to the Prophet of Islam to invite the people of the book (Jews and Christians) to unite around the three axis which are acceptable to both people:
Not to worship anyone but Allah,
Not to associate anyone as equal to him,
Not to accept anyone as master but God.
As you can see what Islam requires of the people of the book is nothing other than respecting the way of their own laws. In the Qur’an, Muslims have been ordered twice not to discriminate among the prophets and not to slip into the race and tribal discrimination that has plagued the Israeli people, but to insist on submission to God of the worlds in spite of their reluctance towards their discrimination, disunion and disputes.
The Qur’an orders the Muslims to instead of aggravating the differences between the Muslims, the Jews and the Christians, to emphasize the shared values and unity of all the prophets according to the following:
Say: “We believe in God, and in what has been revealed to us and what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the Tribes, and in (the Books) given to Moses, Jesus, and the Prophets, from their Lord: we make no distinction between one and another among them, and to God do we bow our will (in Islam).” (3:84)
And dispute ye not with the People of the Book, except with means better (than mere disputation), unless it be with those of them who inflict wrong (and injury): but say, “We believe in the Revelation which has come to us and in that which came down to you; our God and your God is One; and it is to Him we bow (in Islam).” (29:26)
The Qur’an teaches the Muslims that the ways of all Canon Laws are branches of the same monotheistic religion, that is the religion of submission to God, and that the will of God is not in making all sects the same but in creating variety in order to compete for perfection:
To thee We sent the Scripture in truth, confirming the scripture that came before it, and guarding it in safety: so judge between them by what God hath revealed, and follow not their vain desires, diverging from the truth that hath come to thee. To each among you have We prescribed a Law and Open way. If God had so willed, He would have made you a single People, but (His plan is) to test you in what He hath given you: so strive as in a race in all virtues. The goal of you all is to God; it is He that will show you the truth of the matters in which ye dispute; (5:48)
The praise that the Qur’an places on the good members of the people of the book is more than what it places on Muslims. Compare this generosity, magnanimity and fairness with the narrow mindedness and patriarchal and tribal prejudice of a group who have limited this worldwide compassion to their own people and religion.
There are many points attesting the above and we shall sample some of them:
… We sent after them Jesus the son of Mary, and bestowed on him the Gospel; and We ordained in the hearts of those who followed him Compassion and Mercy… (57:27)
Strongest among men in enmity to the Believers wilt thou find the Jews and Pagans; and nearest among them in love to the believers wilt thou find those who say, “We are Christians”: because amongst these are men devoted to learning and men who have renounced the world, and they are not arrogant. (5:82)
If only they had stood fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that was sent to them from their Lord, they would have enjoined happiness from every side. There is from among them a party on the right course: but many of them follow a course that is evil. (5:66)
O Apostle! Proclaim the (message) which hath been sent to thee from thy Lord. If thou didst not, thou wouldst not have fulfilled and proclaimed His Mission. And God will defend thee from men (who mean mischief). For God guideth not those who reject faith. (5:67)
Say: “O people of the book! Ye have no ground to stand upon unless ye stand fast by the Law, the Gospel, and all the revelation that has come to you from your Lord.” It is the revelation that cometh to thee from the Lord, that increaseth in most of them their obstinate rebellion and blasphemy. But sorrow thou not over (these) people without Faith. (5:68
Those who believe (in the Qur’an), those who follow the Jewish (scriptures), and the Sabians and the Christians, -- any who believe in God and the Last Day, and work righteousness, --on them shall be no fear nor shall they grieve. (5:69)
And all of them are alike: of the People of the Book are a portion that stand (for the right); they rehearse the Signs of God all night long, and they prostrate themselves in adoration. (3:113)
Of the good that they do, nothing will be rejected of them; for God knoweth well those that do right. (3:115)
If according to the writer, orthodox Islam and historic Christianity are on two totally separate paths, instead Jesus and Mohammad (peace be upon them), (Torah and Bible) and the Qur’an, honest Muslims and the honest people of the Book are totally on the same path and going toward the same target, the God of the two worlds, even though this may not be to the liking of some people.
1 Even though the writer is a Christian himself and the Christians were being tortured and slaughtered for centuries by rulers under the influence of the Jews, and the most opposition against Jesus was from the Jewish writers and the Pharisees, he always supports their claims against the Muslims and gives them the right to do so.
2 The statement is written in such a way as to give the impression that the members of this tribe were killed for not accepting Islam! There is neither mention of war nor of protracted treachery and cooperation to plot with those attacking Medina (in the Ahzar war) which pushed the Muslims to the brink of total slaughter and irradication during the several months of the siege of the city!, nor of their back-stabbing in spite of the existence of a peace treaty, nor of their condemnation in a court whose judge, a Muslim born as a Jew who was respected by both sides and who had been elected by them.
In our times, when the United Nations, the Security Council, the Red Cross and the guardians of Human Rights have been established, of course, there are easier legal tools at our disposal. But the analogy of our time with a historical phenomenon related to the tribal relations at a time when today’s legal systems were non-existent and the problems were solved in easier ways, is unscientific and anachronistic. Aside from that, didn’t the Jews trace and punish the war criminals and the main factors responsible for the ovens designed for burning humans? In today’s world which national crime would be met with connivance? How then is this expected of a society living in Saudi Arabia fourteen centuries ago? Not to mention that the Statistics and numbers presented, with respect to the light population at the time, are in doubt.
3 For a reference on this, refer to the book, “Treachery in Reporting History,” by Mustafa Hosini Tabatabai.