History 101 – Muhammad: Prophet of War


Muhammad: Prophet of War

Part I of a series


by Robert Spencer

From the book “The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam and the Crusades” Regnery Press



Why does the life of Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, matter today? Fourteen centuries have passed since he was born. Millions of Muslims have lived and died since then, and many leaders have risen to lead the faithful, including descendants of the prophet himself. Surely Islam, like other religions, has changed over 1,400 years.

Here’s why the life of Muhammad matters: Contrary to what many secularists would have us believe, religions are not entirely determined (or distorted) by the faithful over time. The lives and words of the founders remain central, no matter how long ago they lived. The idea that believers shape religion is derived, instead, from the fashionable 1960s philosophy of deconstructionism, which teaches that written words have no meaning other than that given to them by the reader. Equally important, it follows that if the reader alone finds meaning, there can be no truth (and certainly no religious truth); one person’s meaning is equal to another’s. Ultimately, according to deconstructionism, we all create our own set of “truths,” none better or worse than any other.

Yet for the religious man or woman on the streets of chicago, Rome, Jerusalem, Damascus, Calcutta, and Bangkok, the words of Jesus, Moses, Muhammad, Krishna, And Buddha mean something far greater than any individual’s reading of them. And even to the less-than-devout reader, the words of these great religious teachers are clearly not equal in their meaning.

That’s why I have placed a “Muhammad vs. Jesus” sidebar in every chapter to emphasize the fallacy of those who claim that Islam and christianity – and all other religious traditions, for that matter – are basically equal in their ability to inspire good or evil. It is also meant to emphasize that the West, built on Christianity, is worth defending, even if we live in a so-called post-Christian era. Futhermore, through the words of Muhammad and Jesus, we can draw a distinction between the core principles that guide the faithful Muslim and christian. These principles are important. The followers of Muhammad read his words and imitate his actions, which leads to an expression of faith quite different from Christians. One does not have to look too far to see that life in an Islamic country is different from life in the United States or Britain. The difference begins with Muhammad. In these days when so many invoke Muhammad’s words and deeds to justify actions of violence and bloodshed, it is important to become familiar with this pivotal figure.


Guess what?

* Muhammad did not teach “peace and tolerance.”

* Muhammad led armies and ordered assassinations of his enemies.

* Islamic tradition allows for negotiated settlements only in service of the ultimate goal of Islamic conquest.


For many in the West, Muhammad remains more mysterious than other major religious figures. Most people know, for example, that Moses received the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai, that Jesu dies on a cross at Calvary and was raised from the dead, and maybe even that Buddha sat under a tree and received enlightenment. But less is known about Muhammad, and even that much is disputed. Hence, what follows will be taken solely from Islamic texts.

First basic fact: Muhammad ibn Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib (570-632), the prophet of Islam, was a man of war. He taught his followers to fight for his new religion. He said that their god, Allah, had commanded them to take up arms. And Muhammad, no armchair general, fought numerous battles. These facts are crucial to anyone who really wants to understand what caused the Crusades centuries ago or, in our own time, what has led to the rise of the global jihad movement.

In the course of these battles, Muhammad articulated numerous principles that have been followed by Muslims to this day. Therefore, it is important to record some features of Muhammad’s battles, which can provide insight into today’s newspaper headlines – insights that continue sadly, to elude many analysts and experts.


Muhammad the raider

Muhammad already had experience as a warrior before he assumed the role of prophet. He had participated in two local wars between his Quraysh tribe and their neighboring rivals Banu Hawazin. But his unique role as prophet-warrior would come later. After receiving revelations from Allah through the angel Gabriel in 610, he began by just preaching to his tribe the worship of One god and his own position as a prophet. But he was not well received by his Quraysh brethren in Mecca, who reacted disdainfully to his prophetic call and refused to give up their gods. Muhammad’s frustration and rage became evident. When even his uncle, Abu Lahab, rejected his message, Muhammad cursed him and his wife in violent language that has been preserved in the Qur’an, the holy book of Islam: “May the hands of Abu Lahab perish! May he himself perish! Nothing shall his wealth and gains avail him. He shall be burnt in a flaming fire, and his wife, laden with faggots, shall have a rope of fibre around her neck!” (Qur’an 111: 1-5).

Ultimately, Muhammad would turn violent words to violent deeds. In 622, he finally fled his native Mecca for a nearby town, Medina, where a band of tribal warriors had accepted him as a prophet and pledged their loyalty to him. In Medina, these new Muslims began raiding the caravans of the Quraysh, with Muhammad personally leading many of these raids. These raids kept the nascent Muslim movement solvent and helped form Islamic theology – as in one notorious incident when a band of Muslims raided a Quraysh caravan at Nakhla, a settlement not far from Mecca.

The raiders attacked the caravan during the sacred month of Rajab, when fighting was forbidden. When they returned to the Muslim camp laden with booty, Muhammad refused to share the loot or to have anything to do with them, saying only. “I did not order you to fight in the sacred month.”

But then a new revelation came from Allah, explaining that the Quraysh’s opposition to Muhammad was a worse transgression than the violation of the sacred month. In other words, the raid was justified. “They question thee , O Muhammad, with regard to warfare in the sacred month. Say: warfare therein is a great transgression, but to turn men from the way of Allah, and to disbelieve in Him and in the Inviolable Place of Worship, and to expel His people thence, is a greater sin with Allah; for persecution is worse than killing” (Qur’an 2: 214). Whatever sin the Nakhla raiders had committed was overshadowed by the Qurayah’s rejection of Muhammad.

This was a momentous revelation, for it led to an islamic principle that has had repercussions throughout the ages. Good became identified with anything that redounded to the benefit of Muslims, regardless of whether it violated moral or other laws. The moral absolutes enshrined in the Ten Commandments, and other teachings of the great religions hat preceded Islam, were swept aside in favor of an overarching principle of expediency.


Just like today: Killing non-combatants

When Osama bin Laden killed innocent non-combatant in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2011, and later his co-religionists captured and beheaded civilian hostages in Iraq, American Muslim spokesmen blandly asserted that this targeting of innocent people was forbidden by Islam. This was debatable, since some Islamic legal authorities allow the killing of non-combatants if they are seen as aiding the enemies of Islam in war. However, even if the principle were correct, it would give way to another that arose out of the Nakhla raid: “Persecution is worse than killing.” And therefore, to fight against the persecution of Muslims, by any means necessary, is the highest good in the Muslim mind.


Part II  on Muhammad: Prophet of War will appear soon…



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