Another pagan moralist, Maximus of Tyre, though plunged in the
thick darkness and ignorance of polytheism, could nevertheless see clearly
what the unlettered Arabian prophet could not:
"Thus too, neither the tall Indian virgin, nor the Mede
with her tiara, nor the Dardan with her mitre, neither the
Carian armed, nor the Lydian with her song, neither the
Ionic nor the Hellespontic maid could lead the mighty
Xerxes to love, who engaged the Greeks at Salamis and
Plataea, and who beheld and was the lord of so many
beautiful bodies; but he became enamored with Amestris,
the wife of his son. O most base love! which, neglecting
grateful food, requires such as is bitter and not fit to
be eaten, through intemperate license abusing the power of
love." (Maximus of Tyre, The Dissertations, Dissertation X, pp. 108-109).
Maximus goes on insightfully to explain that it is excessive power
that leads to these abuses: "For when you deprive the soul of knowledge,
but afford it power, you impart to crimes an influx, a license, and a
passage." (Maximus of Tyre, The Dissertations, Dissertation X, p. 1109).
Is that the case here? Don't even think of crossing GodandHisApostle; when you criticize one, the Other gets angry:
"And it is not for a believer, man or woman, to have any choice in
their affairs, when God and His Apostle have decreed a matter: and whoever
disobeyeth God and His Apostle, erreth with palpable error." (Sura 33:36)
There is a depressing trajectory in this man's life which mirrors what
would later become of Joseph Smith in the American wilderness. He begins
in all earnestness, enduring persecution and ridicule to share his awe
of God and the last day. But he is not a voice in the wilderness; he amasses
followers, and with followers come power. And power corrupts. Later we
see him, not enduring ridicule, but murdering the ridiculers. The final
absurdity comes when he and Joseph solemnly intone to the lady-folk poised
at the thresh-hold of the harem that their entry is just exactly what God wants, no, demands.
As noted, the Koran points to the Hadith by holding up the person and example
of Mohammed as fit subject for emulation. But the Hadith contain such subversive
information as Aisha's accusation that the Prophet was mentally ill:
"Narrated 'Aisha: 'Magic was worked on the Prophet so that he began
to fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing. One
day he invoked (Allah) for a long period and then said, "I feel that
Allah has inspired me as how to cure myself. Two persons came to me (in
my dream) and sat, one by my head and the other by my feet. One of them
asked the other, "What is the ailment of this man?" The other
replied, 'He has been bewitched" The first asked, 'Who has bewitched
him?' The other replied, 'Lubaid bin Al-A'sam.' The first one asked, 'What
material has he used?' The other replied, 'A comb, the hair gathered on
it, and the outer skin of the pollen of the male date-palm.' The first
asked, 'Where is that?' The other replied, 'It is in the well of Dharwan.'
" So, the Prophet went out towards the well and then returned and
said to me on his return, "Its date-palms (the date-palms near the
well) are like the heads of the devils." I asked, "Did you take
out those things with which the magic was worked?" He said, "No,
for I have been cured by Allah and I am afraid that this action may spread
evil amongst the people." Later on the well was filled up with earth.'"
(Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 54, Number 490.)
If Mohammed did, at times, "fancy that he was doing a thing which he was not actually doing," he was, to put it plainly, delusional.
As noted, reminiscences by Mohammed's contemporaries are very important
to Islam. The contradictions between this material and the Koran are too
numerous to list. For instance, is intercession futile or possible? The
Koran says futile:
"And fear ye the day when soul shall not satisfy for soul at all, nor shall any intercession be accepted from them,
nor shall any ransom be taken, neither shall they be helped." (Sura 2:45).
"Ask thou forgiveness for them, or ask it not, it will be the same. If thou ask forgiveness for them seventy times, God will by no means forgive them. This, for that they believe not in God and His Apostle! And God guideth not the ungodly people."
"And when the trumpet shall be sounded, the ties of kindred
between them shall cease on that day; neither shall they ask each
"They whose balances shall be heavy, shall be the
blest." (Sura 23:103-104).
"For his own good only shall the
guided yield to guidance, and to his own loss only shall the erring
err; and the heavy laden shall not be laden with another's load." (Sura
But the hadith give us Mohammed himself as intercessor:
"Abu Huraira reported Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: I shall be pre-eminent amongst the
descendants of Adam on the Day of Resurrection and I will be the first intercessor and the first whose intercession will be
accepted (by Allah)." (Hadith, Sahih Muslim, Book 30, Chapter 2, Number 5655).
"God will assemble the believers on the Day of Judgment. They will
say, 'If only we could find an advocate to plead our cause and relieve
us of this predicament.' [...] Mentioning the sin he committed, he will
advise them to try Christ, God's creature and prophet, His word and His
spirit. Christ will say, 'I'm not the one. Ask Muhammad, the man whom God
forgave all his sins, early and late.' They will then come to me and I
shall go and ask God for permission to enter and will be ushered into His
presence. On seeing Him, I shall fall down in obeisance where He will leave
me as long as He pleases. Then I shall be told to rise. I shall be told,
'Speak and you will be heard; ask, and you will be given; beg permission
to intercede, and it will be granted.'" (Bukhari, quoted pp. 95-96,
An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton.)
Though the authenticity of the hadith is open to question, these traditions
are an inextricable part of Islam. This religion's standing in the public
mind would be even lower if more people were familiar with the hadith,
which give us not Mohammed the poet but Mohammed the executioner and warlord.
Works, Faith, or Mercy
Mohammed denied the Biblical basis of salvation: the substitutionary atonement
of Jesus Christ. What he substituted in its place is a hopeless muddle,
Mohammed variously proclaiming 1.) salvation by works, including the
terrifying promise that mankind will receive at God's hand just exactly
what we deserve:
"Fear the day wherein ye shall return to God: then shall every soul
be rewarded according to its desert, and none shall have injustice done
to them." (Sura 2:281).
"It is not the Prophet who will defraud you; — But he who shall defraud, shall come forth with his defraudings
on the day of the resurrection: then shall every soul be paid what it hath merited, and they shall not be treated with injustice." (Sura 3:155).
"But how, when we shall assemble them together for the day of (which)
whose coming there is no doubt, and when every soul shall be paid what
it hath earned, and they shall not be wronged?" (Sura 3:24).
"And some say, 'O our Lord! give us good in this world and good in
the next, and keep us from the torment of the fire.' They shall have the
lot which they have merited: and God is swift to reckon." (Sura 2:198).
"Man acquires nothing but what he himself has earned; none of his
deeds is lost and each will count on the Day of Judgment." (Sura 53:40,
quoted p. 560, The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal).
2.) salvation by faith (understood not in its New Testament meaning of
absolute personal trust, but as assent to a proposition, namely the unity of God):
"Narrated Anas: The Prophet said, 'Whoever said..."None has the
right to be worshipped but Allah and has in his heart good (faith) equal
to the weight of an atom will be taken out of Hell." (Sahih Bukhari,
Volume 1, Book 2, Number 42).
"The Prophet asked Mu'adh, 'Do you know what God can claim from men?
That they worship Him and Him alone. Do you know what they can claim from
Him? If they do that, that He will not punish them.'" (Bukhari, quoted
p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton).
"The Prophet said, 'There has just come to me a messenger from God
to inform me to be of good cheer, for whichever of my people died without
associating any partner with God will enter Heaven. I asked him, 'Even if
he commits adultery, or even if he steals?' and he said, 'Even so.'"
(Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton).
"Narrated Abu Dharr: 'I came to the Prophet while he was wearing white
clothes and sleeping. Then I went back to him again after he had got up
from his sleep. He said, "Nobody says: 'None has the right to be worshipped
but Allah' and then later on he dies while believing in that, except that
he will enter Paradise." I said, "Even if he had committed illegal
sexual intercourse and theft?" He said. "Even if he had committed
illegal sexual intercourse and theft."'" (Sahih Bukhari, Volume
7, Book 72, Number 717.)
"When he came, I could not remain patient and asked him, "O Allah's Prophet!
Let Allah get me sacrificed for you! Whom were you speaking to by the side of Al-Harra? I did not
hear anybody responding to your talk." He said, "It was Gabriel who appeared to me beside Al-Harra
and said, 'Give the good news to your followers that whoever dies without having worshipped anything
besides Allah, will enter Paradise.' I said, 'O Gabriel! Even if he had committed theft or committed
illegal sexual intercourse?' He said, 'Yes.'"
(Hadith, Sahih Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 76, Number 450.)
3.) God's arbitrary mercy, awarded or withheld according to no
rational nor comprehensible schedule:
". . .and whom He pleaseth will He forgive, and whom He
pleaseth will He punish; for God is All-powerful." (Sura 2:284).
"'Walk righteously, sacrifice and be of good cheer,' he said, 'but
none will enter Heaven on account of his deeds.' 'Not even you?' he was
asked. 'Not even I,' he replied, 'unless God smother me in forgiveness
and mercy.'" (Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith,
"Verily, God will not forgive the union of other gods with Himself!
But other than this will He forgive to whom He pleaseth." (Sura 4:51).
"When God created the universe, He wrote in His Book, so binding Himself,
'My mercy will overcome My wrath.' He has kept that Book by Him on the
throne." (Bukhari, quoted p. 95, An Introduction to the Hadith, John Burton.)
or some combination of the three. (There are also, of course, ad hoc salvation plans like 'die in battle and go straight
to heaven.') Mohammed himself pleads for mercy, not the justice he
sometimes preached: "O our Lord!...blot out our sins and forgive us, and have
pity on us." (Sura 2:286);
"O our Lord! forgive us then our sin, and hide away from us our evil
deeds, and cause us to die with the righteous." (Sura 3:191).
Here is one latter-day combo plan, with hell softened to
purgatory for the believer, and intercession, elsewhere denied,
"One should believe that the believer in the
Oneness of Allah (if he encounters Hell on account of his
sins) will be released from Hell fire after he has been
punished, so that there will not remain in Hell one single
"One should believe in the intercession of the
prophets, of the learned, and of the martyrs, then the rest of
the believers — each according to his influence and rank
"Whosoever remains of the believers and has no
intercessor will be released through he Grace of Allah, the
Mighty, the Glorified. Therefore not one single believer will
abide in Hell forever; whosoever has in his heart the weight of
an atom of belief will be brought out from there." (Abu
Hamid al Ghazali, The Foundations of Islamic Belief, pp. 22-23)
Or at any rate, one can always hope.
The Bible does not rule out the theoretical possibility of 1.) salvation
by works, but reports the set of those thus saved to be empty: "For
there is no difference; for all have sinned and fall short of the glory
of God..." (Romans 3:23). The criterion of righteousness is not, as
some Muslims imagine, 51% good somehow mystically cancelling out
the 49% bad: ". . .for the good deeds drive away the evil deeds" (Sura
11:116), but God's holiness:
Even demons make the Muslim profession of faith: "You believe that
there is one God. You do well. Even the demons believe—and tremble!"
(James 2:19). And God is a God of justice, as well as of mercy.
As is understandable, the result of this confusion is not
assurance, but rather, "According to one condition, 'Whoever says,
"I am a believer," is an infidel; and whoever says, "I am learned,"
is ignorant."' (Abu Hamid al Ghazali, The Foundations of Islamic
Belief, p. 251). Because they seek salvation without a Savior, they cannot rest in any of
these three salvation plans, but run from one to the next. Thus all three
have found proponents down through the years; their quarrel cannot be resolved,
because all were proclaimed by Mohammed.
Back during the Cold War, communists in Western countries were great champions
of civil liberties. They naturally wanted to be free to express their views,
unpopular though those might be. When the communists succeeded in gaining
power, however, their devotion to free speech withered, and was shown to have
been only a tactic, not a principle they lived by. Certainly
they did not allow dissenters to express their views, once they had the
power to orchestrate silence.
After departing Mecca for Medina, Mohammed received a fraudulent vision
promising the community would be able to complete the pilgrimage to the
Kaba, still an idol-filled shrine. The tribe of the Quraysh stood in their
way, although "The ancient sanctuary of Makkah was not a property
of the Quraysh but of all the Arabs together...The fact that one tribe
worshipped one idol rather than another never permitted the Quraysh to
forbid any tribe from visiting the Kabah, from circumambulating it, or
from filling any religious duties or acts of worship demanded by the tribe's
loyalty to that god." (The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal, p.
342). Mohammed therefore stood upon his rights as an Arab and demanded
to make the pilgrimage, even inviting pagan Arab tribes to join him to
underscore the basis of his demand. In the Koran at this time, God purportedly
expresses indignation at the Quraysh for arrogantly blocking entry to the
shrine to those who wanted to worship: "And why should they not be
punished by God when they prevent men from entering the Holy Mosque for
worship?" (Koran 8:34-36, quoted p. 341, The Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal).
Times change, civil disorder convulsed Arabia, and Mohammed ended up on
top, holding the keys to the Kabah. Forgotten now was any claim that all
Arabs have a right to visit. Only Muslims are welcome, thank you very much:
"This is a complete absolution from God and His Prophet regarding
all obligation arising from pacts made with the associationists [idolaters]...The
associationists are anathema. After this year they shall not approach the
holy Mosque." (Koran 9:1-36, quoted pp. 465-466, The Life of Muhammad,
Muhammad H. Haykal). "After he [Ali] finished his recitation of the
Qur'an, he continued in his own words: 'O Men, no unbeliever will enter
Paradise; no associationist will perform pilgrimage after this year; and
no naked man will be allowed to circumambulate the Holy House.'" (The
Life of Muhammad, Muhammad H. Haykal, p. 466).
It is noteworthy that all the tolerant language in the Koran is heard before
the community acquires the military strength to silence its detractors.
After that, there is no further talk of tolerance.