"As the Prophet Muhammad said, Jihad is the pinnacle of Islam"

- Sheik Abdallah Basfar

"…[U]nder Islamic law, non-Muslims are deemed unfit to touch the Qur'an. That much is generally known. What is not usually considered is the reason:

According to the Islamic law, we are unclean. The term is "najis." On the multilingual Web site of the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Husseini al-Sistani, the leading Iraqi Shi'ite cleric, there is a catalogue of Islamic laws…

On the "najis" list with urine, feces, etc., are the pig, the dog and the "kafir." That means the Christian, the Jew, the unbeliever in Islam."

- Jeff Jacoby

Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

- 1 John 4:1-3

And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light.

- 2 Cor. 11:14

DEMANDS for a ban on "un-Islamic" activities in schools will be set out by the Muslim Council of Britain [MCB] today. Targets include playground games, swimming lessons, school plays, parents' evenings and even vaccinations...

The holy month [of Ramadan] - when eating and drinking is not allowed in daylight hours - should also see a ban on swimming lessons in case pupils swallow water in the pool.

...It wants Arabic language classes for Muslim pupils, and says the Koran should be recited in music classes.

...And while the MCB insists that all British children should learn about Islam, it wants Muslims to have the right to withdraw their children from RE lessons dealing with Christianity and other faiths.

- Daily Express,

RIYADH, Saudi Arabia - Three French travelers were killed by gunmen Monday in the Saudi Arabian desert when they stopped their car to rest on the side of a road leading to the holy city of Medina in an area restricted to Muslims only.

…Non-Muslims are barred from the area around Medina and neighboring Mecca, the holiest cities in Islam.

- One Local News

Once I was held captive in Kabul. I was the bride of a charming, seductive and Westernised Afghan Muslim whom I met at an American college...

When we landed in Kabul, an airport official smoothly confiscated my US passport. "Don't worry, it's just a formality," my husband assured me. I never saw that passport again. I later learnt that this was routinely done to foreign wives - perhaps to make it impossible for them to leave...

I saw how poor women in chadaris were forced to sit at the back of the bus and had to keep yielding their place on line in the bazaar to any man.

I saw how polygamous, arranged marriages and child brides led to chronic female suffering and to rivalry between co-wives and half-brothers; how the subordination and sequestration of women led to a profound estrangement between the sexes - one that led to wife-beating, marital rape and to a rampant but hotly denied male "prison"-like homosexuality and pederasty; how frustrated, neglected and uneducated women tormented their daughter-in-laws and female servants; how women were not allowed to pray in mosques or visit male doctors (their husbands described the symptoms in their absence).

- Phyllis Chesler.
City University of New York


Islam and jihad
4) Who was Muhammad?
part 1: from birth to the Hijrah


"You who still have a shred of faith in your hearts, have you forgotten that to kill infidels and the enemies of Islam is a deed that has a reward above no other...

Aren't you aware that the model for us all, the Prophet Muhammad and the four rightful caliphs, undertook to murder infidels as one of their primary activities, and that the Prophet waged jihad operations 77 times in the first 10 years as head of the Muslim community in Medina?"

-- Sheik Mukhlas, 12/19/05

The Saudi government "called on everyone to realize that terrorism has no religion or nationality", said a cabinet statement carried by the official SPA news agency. It "warned against hurling charges of terrorism and fascism at Muslims without regard to the spotless history of Islamic civilization", the statement said.

- Yahoo News, 8/15/06


Who was Muhammad?

Muhammad was born to the privileged Quraysh tribe in Mecca in the latter portion of the sixth century. The year 570 is usually cited, but only in retrospect. The early Arabs had no fixed calendar but chose 570 as Muhammad's birth because that was the honored "Year of the Elephant." This was when the Abyssinians attacked Mecca with a herd of elephants, but it was believed the attackers were driven back thanks to the special intervention of Allah.

Muslims believe that when Muhammad was born, assorted miracles accompanied his arrival. Al-Tabari writes that Muhammad's mother, a young woman poor but pure in heart, was visited by an angel who told her she would conceive a son, and that she should name him Muhammad for he would be the "Lord of his people."

Another belief is that it was revealed to a holy man that a new prophet was coming. He was led to a caravan where he would be able to find that prophet among the men there and bless him. After reviewing them, the holy man asked if he had really been shown all their young men. They replied no, there was still the youngest boy who was humbly left to watch over the baggage. He was called in and, upon seeing the young Muhammad, the holy man proclaimed him "Messenger of the Lord of the Worlds."

If these miracles seem familiar, they should. They are near-accounts of Mary, mother of Jesus, from the New Testament, and the anointing of David from the Old Testament. Skirting the obvious question and assuming factual equivalency, Muslim writer/apologist Reza Aslan tellingly redirects:

It is not important whether the stories describing the childhood of Muhammad, Jesus, or David are true. What is important is what these stories say about our prophets, our messiahs, our kings: that theirs is a holy and eternal vocation, established by God from the moment of creation.

By the age of six, both Muhammad's parents had died and custody of him passed to his grandfather, Abd al-Muttalib. After his grandfather's death, he passed to his uncle and influential Quraysh member Abu Talib.

At age 25, Muhammad married a wealthy widow fifteen years his senior, Khadijah; supposedly in a selfless effort to protect her from unscrupulous men who sought "to get their hands on her money" (No god but God, Reza Aslan, p. 33). Her highly successful merchant business afforded them uncommon wealth and ease for that period. This was fifteen years before the well-to-do young husband would begin having visions and seizures, and hearing voices that would lead to his discovery that he was God's greatest prophet ever.


The first recitation

By one account, Muhammad's initial vision came deep in a cave in the year 610. There he had secluded himself to consider the words of a Christian evangelist he had heard from Northern Yemen concerning Judgment Day. By another account, he entered the dark mountain cave to meditate on how to reconcile his renowned generosity to the poor with his elite status as a Quraysh. Either way, it's said he heard a voice out of the blackness demanding, "Recite!"

Muhammad asked, "What shall I recite?", but the reply kept coming back simply, "Recite!" He seized up with physical agony and anguish until he thought the unseen force was going to kill him. But as words came to him, his agony eventually gave way to peaceful assurance that his words were not just his words, but the words of Allah, and he, Muhammad, Allah's special messenger.

Muhammad's newfound beliefs stressed that Allah was "a good god", and was "the most merciful" and "the most generous". Stressing Allah's goodness and fairness, Muhammad began preaching against what the Meccans well knew to be their financial and religious oppression at the hands of the city's highest authorities. Muhammad exorted throughout the city how unfair it was that one small group of elitists controlled access to all the idols of the Ka'ba, and that they charged religious-minded people such exorbitantly high fees to worship there.

After three years of this preaching, Muhammad succeeded only in aggravating the Meccan authorities, not at rallying the oppressed masses to his side.

Noticeably absent from his recitations for those first three years were condemnations of false gods, multiple gods, or idols of the Ka'ba. This changed in 613 when its said the revelation came down that there was only one god - Allah. It was at this point that Muhammad's preaching switched emphasis to the oneness of Allah and to the exclusive authority of himself, Muhammad, as Allah's special messenger. These two points from now on would remain Islam's core creed (the shahadah) - the first of the "five pillars of Islam."

The chief concerns of Muhammad's preaching now turned to warning people of Judgment Day, encouraging them to look after one another, and urging them to provide for the poor. He also sought to provide people with a set of instructions which had to be obeyed in order to get into heaven. These requirements Muhammad would incrementally dictate to his followers as they came to him throughout his life. It would be many years after his death before Abu Bakr and others would compile in writing all the requirements they could remember him saying.


Muhammad on the person of Jesus

Concerning the person of Jesus, Muhammad held him to be a messiah...BUT this needs qualification. Muhammad's interpretation of the Old Testament's promised Messiah were along the lines of an ancient Jewish two-messiah theory. See the link for details, but basically Muhammad thought Jesus to be the messiah-priest prophecied in the Old Testament to suffer and die; and held himself to be the other messiah-king prophecied to conquer the world and be seated in power in heaven at the right hand of God.

For whatever reason, Muhammad failed to discern the identity of the Messiah. Perhaps the source of Muhammad's recitations was insufficiently versed in Jesus' teachings or the Old Testament prophets to know they had not spoken of two messiahs who would each come once, but one Messiah - the Lord Jesus himself - who would come twice.

Muhammad also held Jesus to be a prophet, though one lesser than himself. (A statue of Jesus was one of the 360 idols stored in the Ka'ba, and reportedly one of the few that remain to this day.)

Overall, Muhammad's perspective of Jesus as evidenced in Muslim texts was drawn from the uninspired apocryphal writings, from the Jewish two-messiah theory, and from select verses in the New Testament; hardly recognizable to Christians then or now, especially in regard to the real purpose of the Old Testament, the meaning of the Law, and the purpose and significance of Christ's coming and death on the cross (as no less explained by Christ himself!).

Still, quranic statements attributed to Muhammad's early years in Mecca tend to speak of Jesus' followers with tolerance, as though to encourage Islam's followers to 'be patient with them, they'll come around.' The same tolerance is even extended to Jews - in the early sayings.


"People of the Book"

Muhammad sometimes referred to Christians and Jews as "People of the Book". This is not in reference (or reverence) to the Bible or Torah, but to a book believed to exist in heaven - the Umm al-Kitab or "Mother of Books."

Muhammad believed that from the Umm al-Kitab, the first third was revealed to the Jews (the Old Testament essentially); the second third was revealed to the Christians (the New Testament and the apocryphal writings), and the last third was being revealed to himself via the words that came into his mind. Muhammad believed they all taught the same, singular story of mankind.

There are, of course, major differences of theology between the Judeo-Christian texts and Muhammad's revelations, as he was at least partly aware. He explained these as corruptions which must have crept into the Torah and Bible. In spite of this, in his early sayings Muhammad is described as holding Jews and Christians to be his spiritual cousins. In connection with this belief comes one of Muhammad's most pluralistic statements (Qur'an 5:69):

...Anyone who believes in God and the Last Days, and who does good deeds, will have nothing to fear or regret.

Several times now, I have made reference to Muhammad's "early sayings." I make a point of this distinction because Islam makes a special point of this distinction.

It is accepted within Islamic theology that Muhammad made contradictory remarks and that those are reflected in contradictory verses in the Qur'an and other texts. Islam reconciles this by reasoning that Muhammad's latter recitations from Allah always abrogate or negate his previous statements and doctrines to the contrary.

However, what Islam does not reconcile, not uniformly, is when each of Muhammad's statements were made. Their texts are arranged topically, not chronologically. This partly explains the problem faced by Muslims today, forced to choose between Muhammad's conflicting directions. They're instructed to follow those which were given last - whichever half one might argue those to be.

The effects of this dilemma are on the news every day - whether Islam means peace or war, or whether Muslims are to be tolerant of others or are to persecute and kill them. At root these all stem from the disagreement over "What did Muhammad say last?" This is fully discussed in a separate chapter, but know for now that the focal point in time after which Allah's commands took a new and violent direction was when Muhammad's own clan threatened him with death in Mecca and he took flight to Yathrib (Medina).


From Mecca to Yathrib

By 619, local Arab tolerance of Mohammed's claim of divine exclusivity was reaching a breaking point, as was the exhausted patience of his own Quraysh clan. The Quraysh were most concerned about Muhammad as a financial competitor. Muhammad's monotheism preached that pilgrims' dollars should not be given to the Quraysh to visit the Ka'ba anymore, but should instead be directed to Allah alone whose earthly accountant was Muhammad alone. This was cash out of their pockets.

Quraysh leadership had thus far tolerated Muhammad's preaching, thanks largely to the restraining influence of Muhammad' uncle Abu Talib. But by this date, Muhammad's wife Khadijah had died, as had his uncle. Uncle Talib's death opened the door for the clan to elect a new sheikh - someone not as disposed as Muhammad's uncle to protecting a public enemy of the tribe. Indeed upon election, that new sheikh formally withdrew the clan's protection of Muhammad. In 622, this along with death threats from the Quraysh would drive both Muhammad and his group (the Muhajirun) out of Mecca. (Qur'an 10:2, 34:43, 68:2, 81:22-23...)

The number of Muhammad's followers in Mecca at this time had only numbered between 75 to 200, even after a decade of developing and spreading his beliefs. Muhammad's sayings suggest he was hurt that so few fellow former pagans failed to grasp the reality of his divine appointment over them.

By Bedouin tradition, it was terribly dishonoring to be cast out by one's own clan. And Quraysh threats of death should Muhammad ever return would never be rescinded. It was only at the invitation of another clan, the Khazraj clan, that he and his Muhajirun were able to find refuge. Suffering the loss of their formerly prestigious life, as well as of all that had to be left behind, the Muhajirun quietly escaped Mecca for the Jewish and Arabic farming community around the city of Yathrib. Muhammad fled last and separately under cover of darkness. In little time, Yathrib would become better known as Medinat an-Nabi, or Medina for short, meaning the "city of the prophet."

This epic flight from Mecca to Medina that would both change Muhammad's ministry and change Islam radically and forever is still commemorated by Muslims today as the Hijrah.


(top of page)

NEXT: Who was Muhammad? - part 2


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Muhammed founded Islam in the early 600's. Prior to looking at the history of jihad from his day to the present, one should understand something of the man, and also the culture into which he was born.

It is by his life and teachings, and those of his successors that Muslims interpret the world and steer their lives, be those lives of peace or violence.

1. Who was Muhammad?
2. The first recitation
3. On the person of Jesus
4. "People of the Book"
5. From Mecca to Yathrib