I was recently talking about slavery in Islam on a social media platform when the report of African immigrants being dehumanized in Saudi Arabia was trending.
Several Muslims responded to me in that thread, with a few challenging me to prove my stance and I proceeded to document not only the legality of slavery from Islamic sources, but also highlight the fact that in almost every instance where the hadiths make references to Muhammad’s slaves, they were either Jews or Africans.
This unearthing of bare bone facts didn’t (expectedly) go over well with our Muslim friends who resorted to their well-worn tactics when confronted with ugly truths about their prophet:
- Dismiss the quotes from the hadiths as “weak narrations.”
- Allege that the statements or deeds quoted were fabricated by the Jews or “the west.”
- Claiming that the opponent is maliciously quoting the source out of context to paint Islam or its prophet in a bad light.
When one of them realized that his trump cards weren’t bringing out the best result, he told me as a matter of fact that dehumanizing non-Muslims at the time wasn’t really bad, after all, they were thinking and planning bad stuff against the powerful prophet:
“It was dehumanizing for the enemies, yes. You wanted them to be honoured after wanting to kill the Prophet? Even though they were enemies when they were prisoners of war, they were treated like eggs by the Muslims, they were fed like children and were allowed to earn their freedom.”
This line of thinking is quite problematic. First, it trades on a circular argument (“our prophet said he believed that his victims wanted to kill him so I believe it too”) and accepts the accusations and performative violence without any objective proof.
Second, he’s trying to find a moral justification for capturing, enslaving, torturing, dehumanizing and sexually assaulting other people as long as they are labelled as “enemies.”
This is similar to the excuses of most hardened criminals (“I raped her because she made my blood heat up” or “We beheaded them because they deceived our parents.”)
The most striking part was his egregious lie. Where in their hadiths were slaves “treated (carefully) like eggs”? None.
Even in his desperate bid to defend the indefensible, he contradicted himself. How on earth do you admit that slaves owned by Muslims were dehumanized and in the next sentence claim they were treated with care and “fed like children”?
You see, none of these lurid accusations levied against Muhammad’s enemies were documented, Muslims have had to invent most of them because they needed to uphold an underlying tenet of their religion: the alleged sinlessness of prophet Muhammad.
Muslim scholars are of the opinion that prophets are either sinless or at least free from all major sins or faults. One scholar wrote:
“All the prophets of God were men of good character and high honor … Their honesty and truthfulness, their intelligence and integrity are beyond doubt. They were infallible in that they did not commit sins or violate the Law of God.” (Abdalati Hammudah, Islam in Focus. American Trust Publications: Indianapolis, 1975, p. 27)
If a Muslim should admit that Muhammad actually committed acts of wickedness by enslaving, raping women, or assassinating people, he would also be admitting that he sinned, and that ultimately destroys his belief in isma (impeccability) and the other Islamic lies that go with it. It’s like a chain; it’s only as strong as its weakest link.
“Yeah, he was sinless,” said my Muslim opponent, “name one sin [he committed],” he ordered.
This is like someone challenging me to prove that the sky is blue. It’s a philosophical paradox that it’s easier to prove the ominous than to prove the obvious. It’s easier to prove that angels are real than to prove that grasses are green.
If a person is demanding evidence that zebras have stripes, you will wonder if his eyes and brains are functioning right. It’s just the same as someone who has refused to see enslaving others as sin but is now asking me to name a sin his guru was guilty of.
The fact is, the burden of proof is not on us to prove that Muhammad was a sinner, it’s rather on the Muslims to prove to us where the Quran or Hadiths ever stated that Muhammad was sinless.
When we look into these sources, we see that Muhammad was just like every other man – he sinned.
In Sura 18:110, Allah commands him: Say (O Muhammad): “I am no more than a human being like you; one to whom revelation is made…”
Muhammad was simply a man like his followers, the fact that he received a revelation doesn’t make him infallible.
Sura 40:55 says “So be patient, [O Muhammad]. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt [Allah] with the praise of your Lord, morning and evening.”
Sura 48:1-2 say: “Indeed, We have granted you a manifest triumph. That Allah may forgive you your sins of the past and the future and complete His Favor on you and guide you on the Straight Path.”
Sura 47:19 says: “So know (O Muhammad) that there is no God save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women. Allah knoweth (both) your place of turmoil and your place of rest.”
The only way a Muslim can successfully weasel his way out of these passages is to argue that Allah was wrong to ask Muhammad to ask for forgiveness because he had nothing to forgive! A damning admission, that one.
Yet, Muslim translators have dug into their bag of tricks to work some “abracadabra” on these passages.
The Arabic word “dhanb” or “thanb” was used in the texts, which according to The Hughes Encyclopedic Dictionary of Islam means, “a sin or a crime, or the charge of such.” The word is used in several other places and rightly translated as sin or crime (see Suras 3:11, 16, 31; 5:18, 49; 6:6; 7:10 etc).
But Muslim translators cannot allow Muhammad to be a sinner or criminal as their book says, so in those passages where dhanb was used, they deliberately rendered it as “fault” – a minor mistake or mild error that can be overlooked.
One English translator even smuggled in the words “attributed to you by Meccan polytheists” in parenthesis after “your sins” in Sura 48:2. His doctrinal presupposition was so strong that he had to bring up a sledgehammer and beat the text into conformity with it.
The doctrine of isma was actually a later innovation in Islam. It was first formulated in the creed known as the Fiqh Akbar II where it was stated that:
“All the Prophets are exempt from sins, both light and grave, from unbelief and sordid deeds. Yet stumbling and mistakes may happen on their part.” (Arent Jan Wensinck, The Muslim Creed: Its Genesis and Historical Development, p. 192).
Even the hadiths which attempted to don Muhammad with a legendary clothing tell us the same thing: that he was a poor sinner in need of forgiveness and redemption:
The Prophet used to say, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from laziness and geriatric old age, from all kinds of sins and from being in debt; from the affliction of the Fire and from the punishment of the Fire and from the evil of the affliction of wealth…”(Bukhari 8.379: Narrated ‘Aisha)
The fact that Muhammad kept praying for forgiveness and seeking refuge from the punishment of the fire of hell is proof that he was a sinner, his sins were indeed serious, and he knew their consequences were awaiting him beyond the grave.
The Prophet used to invoke Allah with the following invocation: [Arabic translation] “O my Lord! Forgive my sins and my ignorance and my exceeding the limits of righteousness in all my deeds and what you know better than I … Forgive my sins of the past and of the future with I did openly or secretly.” (Bukhari 8.407: Narrated Abu Musa)
What do you say in the pause between Takbir and recitation? Muhammad replied, I say, “O Allah, set me apart from my sins as the East and Westest are set apart from each other and clean me from sins as a white garment is cleaned from dirt. O Allah! Wash off my sins with water, snow and hail.” (Bukhari 1:711 Narrated Abu Huraira)
The Prophet used to say frequently in his bowings and prostrations, “O Allah! Our Lord! All praises are for You. O Allah! Forgive me.” (Bukhari 1:781 Narrated ‘Aisha)
I heard Allah’s Apostle saying, “By Allah! I ask for forgiveness from Allah and turn to him in repentance more than seventy times a day.” (Bukhari 8:319, Narrated Abu Huraira)
Muhammad’s wife, Aisha records that the early Muslims didn’t regard Muhammad as sinless (but rather as one whose sins were forgiven).
They said, “O Allah’s Prophet! We are not like you. Allah has forgiven your past and future sins” (Bukhari 1:19).
“The Prophet entered my house when a Jewess was with me and she was saying: Do you know that you would be put to trial in the grave? The Messenger of Allah trembled (on hearing this) and said: It is the Jews only who would be put to trial. Aisha said: We passed some nights and then the Messenger of Allah said: Do you know that it has been revealed to me: “You would be put to trial in the grave”? Aisha said: I heard the Messenger of Allah seeking refuge from the torment of the grave after this.” (Muslim 4, No. 1212, Narrated Aisha)
If Muhammad was only guilty of minor mistakes and little faults, why did he tremble and why was he earnestly seeking refuge from the torment of the grave?
These narrations give a lie to the fantastic claims of Muhammad being “cleansed” by angels as a baby or being untouched by Satan at birth.
In the hadith Mishkat al Masabih (1990 ed.), Aisha said Muhammad used to say: “O God, I seek refuge in Thee from the evil of what I have done…” (p. 525)
In the same hadith, Abu Musa al-Ashari quotes Muhammad saying:
“O God, forgive me of my sin, my ignorance, my extravagance in my affairs and my frivolous sins, for I am guilty of all that; O god, forgive me my former and my latter sins, what I have keep secret and what I have done openly.” (p. 529)
Ah, but Muhammad was sinless! No he wasn’t. In fact, his religion and rituals failed to cater for his own sins much less the sins of his followers.
But as the centuries ensued, many Muslims who realized from the Bible that Jesus Christ is absolutely sinless and their guru was inferior, in ways more than one, tried to tailor their prophet along that line by attributing miracles to him and adopting isma, but the skeletons keep falling out of the cupboards.
Jesus didn’t have to pray for forgiveness or seek refuge in fear from the fire of hell, for he had declared: “For the prince of this world [Satan] is coming. He has no hold over me” (Jn. 14:30).
We invite our Muslim friends to come to Jesus Christ, the Righteous One who has the power to save one from sin and deliver one to the uttermost.