Was Muhammad a Merciful Man?

Whenever I hear someone say that Muhammad was merciful or that he was a champion of human rights during his time period, I cringe with anger. Calling Muhammad peaceful is like calling Genghis Khan a pacifist. They were both brutal men. No sugarcoating of history can change that. Unfortunately most Muslims and non-Muslims simply don’t know the truth about this man Muhammad, the founder of the religion Islam.

The elevation of Muhammad to a “Jesus-like” hippie comes from an ignorance of Islamic sources. Aside from the obvious ignorance, there are many fabricated stories that Muslim children are told to believe in that portray Muhammad as a peaceful, wise man. One example is the completely fabricated story about some random woman who used to throw garbage at Muhammad, and how he forgave her1. These fictional tales combined with ignorance of actual history give even most Muslims a false image of who Muhammad really was.

In order to know the truth about Muhammad, we have to read his earliest biography, a text which was written by a man named Ibn Ishaq, a devout Muslim scholar who had no desire to portray Muhammad as an evil man. The only existing copy of his text is an abridged version by the Muslim historian, Ibn Hisham, aside from a few stories that have been incorporated by the scholar al-Tabari. Ibh Hisham himself acknowledges that he removed several stories from the biography which he thought made Muhammad look “unprophetic”. Censorship is not a phenomenon that is alien to Islam. After the censorship process, we’re left with an “authentic” copy of Muhammad’s biography. This text, Sirat Rasul Allah, has been accepted by every major Islamic scholar for the last fourteen hundred years. Only in recent times are there any scholars (such as Shibli Nomani) who call this biography weak or argue that some of the incidents are forged. To them I say, enough with the intellectual dishonesty. There was never a dispute among mainstream Muslims about Muhammad’s biography before the modern era. Many of the stories can be cross-referenced with other Islamic sources including the Hadith, or “authentic sayings of Muhammad”. The English translation by Alfred Guillaume is readily available and you can verify any of the quoted sources for yourself.  I actually bought my copy at a bookstore in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

So, was Muhammad a peaceful and/or merciful man? Here are just a few of the stories documented by Ibn Ishaq:

“A married man had committed adultery with a married woman and they (Jewish Rabbis) said: ‘Send them to Muhammad and ask him what the law about them is and leave the penalty to him…Muhammad b. Talha b. Yazid b. Rukana from Ismail b. Ibrahim from Ibn Abbas told me that the apostle ordered them to be stoned, and they were stoned at the door of his mosque. And when the Jew felt the first stone he crouched over the woman to protect her from the stones until both of them were killed.” (Pages 266-267)

Would a merciful man have two human beings STONED TO DEATH simply for having sexual intercourse? The more moderate Muslims today claim that stoning has no place in Islam. This claim is born in ignorance of Islam’s own teachings, and directly contradicts Muhammad’s own actions.

“Then they (Banu Qurayza) surrendered, and the apostle confined them in Medina in the quarter of d. al-Harith, a woman of B. al-Najjar. Then the apostle went out to the market of Medina and dug trenches in it. Then he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches… There were 600 or 700 in all, though some put the figure as high as 800 or 900… Then the apostle sent Sa’d b. Zayd al-Ansari brother of b. Abdu’l-Ahhal with some of the captive women of B. Qurayza to Najd and he sold them for horses and weapons.” (Page 464)

Would a “prophet of mercy” behead hundreds of men, many of whom were innocent, and then sell their wives for horses and weapons? What kind of definition of mercy is this? Can you imagine a trench full of hundreds of bloodied heads? Not even in my worse nightmare would I want to picture such a sight. Muhammad makes even Genghis Khan look like an amateur.

“The apostle seized the property piece by piece and conquered the forts one by one as he came to them… The apostle took captives from them among whom was Safiya d. Huyayy b. Akhtab who had been the wife of Kinana b. al-Rabi b. Abu’l-Huqayq, and two cousins of hers. The apostle chose Safiya for himself… The women of Khaybar were distributed among the Muslims… Kinana b. al-Rabi, who had the custody of the treasure of B. al-Nadir, was brought to the apostle who asked him about it. He denied that he knew where it was. A Jew came to the apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the apostle said to Kinana, ‘Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?’ He said Yes. The apostle gave orders that the ruin was to be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr b. al-Awwam, ‘Torture him until you extract what he has,’ so he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud.” (Pages 511-515)

Would a man with even a small amount of humanity torture an innocent person to death and then “choose” his wife for himself? Muslims claim that Safiya consented to marrying Muhammad. Where is the consent in this scenario? Could a woman possibly open her legs willingly to the man who just tortured and murdered her husband and her family? Furthermore, why would a prophet of God need treasure? Even if God is broke 2 and needs his prophet to find money elsewhere, could he at least tell him where it’s hidden so he doesn’t have to torture some poor soul?

“He (Abdullah b. Khatal) had two singing-girls Fartana and her friend who used to sing satirical songs about the apostle, so he ordered that they should be killed with him. Another was al-Huwayrith b. Nuqaydh b. Wahb b. Abd b. Qusayy, one of those who used to insult him in Mecca.” (Pages 550-551)

Muslims argue that Islam forbids the killing of women during wartime. Historical facts prove otherwise. Not only were two slave girls ordered to be murdered by Muhammad, but their crime was as trivial as singing some songs. Would a merciful man have someone killed for simply singing a song? What kind of mercy is this? I thought Muhammad even forgave a woman who threw garbage on him. What the hell is going on here then?

“Abu Afak was one of B. Amr b. Auf of the B. Ubayda clan. He showed his disaffection when the apostle killed al-Harith b. Suwayd b. Samit… The apostle said, ‘Who will deal with this rascal for me?’ whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf one of the ‘weepers’, went forth and killed him…When Abu Afak had been killed she (Asma b. Marwan) displayed disaffection… When the apostle heard what she had said he said, ‘Who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?’ ‘Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he said, ‘You have helped God and His apostle, O ‘Umayr!’ When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, ‘Two goats won’t butt their heads about her,’ so Umayr went back to his people.” (Pages 675-676)

Here are yet two more innocent people who were ordered to be killed by Muhammad. What was their crime? They wrote poetry against him. Yes, that’s right. They dared to write poetry against him! You tell me who the real Muslims are then when cartoonists who draw Muhammad are threatened with death.

Countless more incidents that are equally if not more brutal can be found in the early, authentic, Islamic texts. You decide for yourself if Muhammad was merciful.



1 – – Note that even the incidents that show that Muhammad was “persecuted” are taken from Ibn Ishaq, the source I used above.

2 – Qur’an 2:245:  Who is it that will offer up unto God a goodly loan, which He will amply repay, with manifold increase? For, God takes away, and He gives abundantly; and it is unto Him that you shall be brought back. 

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