Fatwas have recently begun appearing on Islamic websites offering a 60 million dollar reward for the murder of Zakariya Boutrous (the US reward for Usama Bin Ladin is less than half that). A lawsuit at the highest level is being brought against him in his native country of Egypt. Why? Because he does what few people dare to do – ask hard questions about Islam. Following is the broadcast on Al-Hayat TV that started it all, with host Ahmad and Father (Abuna) Zakariya discussing the birth of Muhammad.
AHMAD: Welcome to “The Bull’s Eye”, in which we look at issues surrounded by questions. Today we will examine the genealogy of Muhammad from Islamic sources to see who he is and where he came from. Abuna, have you found information about this in Islamic history?
ABUNA: Yes I have, and there are questions that I have never heard explained by any Islamic scholar or Imam. I don’t know why they hesitate to talk about it. It’s a vital subject and discussed in the history books. I invite all those watching to think about and do further research on the claim that Muhammad remained in the womb of his mother Amina for four years.
AHMAD: But Muslims will say this is just one of the miracles of Muhammad. What’s unusual about that?
ABUNA: Of course they can say this is a pre-natal miracle of Muhammad, just as they say that he was the first of God’s creation which is another of his miracles. If that’s what they want to say, fine. But they try to justify it by saying that other women have remained pregnant for several years. In other ways, they claim it to be a natural phenomenon. But I pose the question, is it natural that a child would remain in the womb of his mother for four years?
AHMAD: It seems to be an embarrassing question. How do Muslims deal with it?
ABUNA: They just ignore it. You would think they would want to know as much as possible about the birth of Muhammad, just as we Christians want to know as much as possible about the birth of Jesus. The miracles surrounding Christ’s birth are well known. If Muhammad is, as Muslims believe, the highest of the prophets, they should want to know everything about him. The problem concerning the birth of Muhammad begins and ends with his connection to his uncle Hamza, who was the son of Muhammad’s grandfather Abd al-Mutallib.
AHMAD: What’s the relationship between Muhammad and Hamza?
ABUNA: The biography of Muhammad written by al-Halabi, as well as "The Comprehensive Compilation of the Names of the Prophet's Companions" by Ibn Abd al-Barr, both say that Muhammad’s mother Amina lived in the house of her uncle Wahib. Abd al-Mutallib went with his son Abdallah to seek the hand of Wahib’s niece Amina. While there, Abd al-Mutallib was attracted to a daughter of Wahib named Hala and asked for her hand as well. Wahib agreed, and Muhammad’s father Abdallah and his grandfather Abd al-Mutallib were both married on the same day in a double marriage ceremony.
AHMAD: So Muhammad’s father married Amina, and his grandfather married her cousin Hala on the same day.
ABUNA: That’s correct. In his biography of the prophet, Ibn Hisham says that Abdallah had sexual intercourse with Amina in her father’s house immediately after the marriage and she became pregnant with the Messenger of God. So what is undisputed is that Amina became pregnant with Muhammad just after becoming married. “The Book of the Major Classes” by historian Ibn Sad says that Abdallah died a few months after his marriage at the age of 25, when his wife Amina was pregnant with Muhammad. Muhammad’s grandfather Abd al-Mutallib and his new wife Hala also had a son Hamza, who was Muhammad’s uncle.
AHMAD: So what’s the problem with that?
ABUNA: The problem is that Muhammad and Hamza should be about the same age. If Hala and Amina both became pregnant soon after their marriage, Muhammad and Hamza would be the same age. If Hala became pregnant a few years later, Hamza would be younger than Muhammad. But Islamic history informs us that Hamza was older than Muhammad. In his biography of Muhammad “Uyun al-Athar”, Ibn Sayyid al-Nas wrote, “Zubayr narrated that Hamza was four years older than the Prophet. But this does not seem correct to me, because reliable hadith state that Thaybiya nursed both Hamza and the Prophet.” Ibn Sayyid concluded that Hamza was two years older than Muhamad, rather than four years as Zubayr claimed. He finished by saying, as they always say about matters that are in doubt, “Only God knows.”
In his book “Finding the Truth in Judging the Companions”, Ibn Hajar al-Asqalani writes that Hamza was born two to four years before Muhammad. Ibn Sad says in “The Book of the Major Classes” that Hamza was killed at the Battle of Uhud when he was 59 years old. Ibn Sad adds that Hamza was four years older than the Prophet of God, and he was killed when Washi Ibn al-Harb pierced his stomach.
AHMAD: How old was Muhammad at the Battle of Uhud?
ABUNA: The encyclopedia “Dairat al-Maarif al-Islamiyah” says Muhammad was born in 570 AD. It also says the Battle of Uhud took place three years after the emigration from Mecca to Medina in 622, which means the battle occurred in 625. So Muhammad was 55 years old when Hamza died at the age of 59.
AHMAD: So Hamza was four years older than his nephew Muhammad. What’s so important about that?
ABUNA: It’s important because of the question that I am going to ask. I challenge Shaykh Tantawi of Al-Azhar University, and Shaykh Qardawi and Shaykh Beblawi and all the other famous Shaykhs to answer this question. If Abdallah and his father Abd al-Mutallib both got married on the same day and Abdallah died a few months later, how could Hamza be four years older than Muhammad? To put my question even more clearly another way, “Who was the father of Muhammad if he was born four years after Abdallah died?”
AHMAD: My goodness! If there was doubt about the genealogy of Muhammad, why wasn’t it mentioned in the history books?
ABUNA: It was mentioned; who said it wasn’t? Ibn Kathir states in his book “The Beginning and the End” that men from the Beni Kindah tribe claimed that Muhammad was one of them.
AHMAD: Who are the Beni Kindah?
ABUNA: One of the Arab tribes of the time, but not the Beni Hashim tribe that Muslims believe Muhammad is descended from. In his book “Dalail al-Nubuwwah”, Abu Naim al-Isbahani wrote that Ibn Abbas told Muhammad that the Quraysh were talking about their ancestors and described Muhammad as “a palm tree growing on the hillside”. When Muhammad heard that, he became angry.
AHMAD: What does that mean, a palm tree growing on the hillside?
ABUNA: It means they were saying Muhammad was not a palm tree they had planted, he was just a tree growing by itself. No-one knew who planted it or put it there. Muhammad understood what they were saying, and that is why he became angry. Abu Naim al-Isbahani went on to say that Ibn Abbas told Muhammad, “When the Quraysh meet each other, they give each other big smiles. But when they meet us, they mock us and say they don’t know where our Prophet came from.” Muhammad became very angry when he heard that.
Some researchers have interpreted this to mean that the men of Beni Kindah knew that Muhammad was from their tribe, not from the Beni Hashim, and that Muhammad admitted that. They also said that the statement that Muhammad was “a palm tree growing on the hillside” meant that he had no known ancestry. It’s all written in the history books.
AHMAD: Those are hard and hurtful words. Why don’t the Islamic scholars come on television and explain them to us?
ABUNA: That’s why I’m bringing it up, so they can explain it to us and tell us what is right and what is wrong. And so that Muslims will not be blinded by not knowing the facts because no one will explain it to them. What makes the situation even more interesting is the biography of Muhammad, “Al –Sirah Al-Halabiyah”, by Imam Ali Burhan al-Din al-Halabi in which he writes that the mother of Muhammad commented that her pregnancy with Muhammad was easier than any other pregnancy.
AHMAD: Does that mean she was pregnant before she had Muhammad?
ABUNA: That’s the big question. The same thing is repeated in “The Beginning and the End” by Ibn Kathir, and “Al-Khasas al-Kubra” by Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti and many of the well-known hadith. It is often repeated that she said when she became pregnant with Muhammad it was easier than any other pregnancy. Should this be interpreted to mean she had been pregnant before?
AHMAD: How could Abd al-Mutallib accept that his son marry her if that was the case?
ABUNA: This was in the time of jahiliyah (before Islam). That is when Abd al-Mutallib lived. It was not a problem in those days for a woman to have sexual relations with more than one man. “Al –Sirah Al-Halabiyah” recounts that Amr Ibn al-As in Mecca did not know who his father was, because four men had a sexual relationship with his mother. When he asked his mother who his father was, she chose al-As and Amr Ibn al-As considered him to be his father. This is all in the history books of Islam.
AHMAD: Someone wrote about that and was convicted of “takfir” (becoming an unbeliever. What do you say about that?
ABUNA: It’s true; an Egyptian scholar wrote about it, and was convicted of takfir even though he is a famous writer. I always say the truth is bitter. It’s like when everyone knows how bad a man is treating his wife, but if you go and talk to him about it, he kills you.
AHMAD: You said that it was common in the jahiliyah for a woman to have a sexual relationship with more than one man. Are there other things from the jahiliyah that factor in here?
ABUNA: Yes, it was also common for a man who was unable to impregnate his wife to send her to another man. When she became pregnant, she would return to her husband.
AHMAD: Has that practice stopped, or does it still exist in Islam?
ABUNA: One other practice in the jahiliyah was that when people made the pilgrimage they would often have communal marriages. None of these things were a problem at that time. Did this continue into Islam? Malik relates a hadith that a woman remarried 14 months after the death of her husband and then gave birth to a child four months later. When Umar Ibn al-Khattab heard about this, he asked the people what should be done. They told him this was not a problem, because it was possible she had become pregnant from her first husband and the fetus had solidified after his death until the sperm of her second husband reactivated the life of the fetus. This was their way of justifying her giving birth four months after her marriage. There are many strange stories like that. But the important thing for our purposes is that Abd al-Mutallib, in the days of jahaliya, would not have a problem with Amina not being a virgin when she married his son.
AHMAD: How have the Muslim scholars dealt with the issue of Hamza being four years older than Muhammad?
ABUNA: Many of them have claimed that a pregnancy of four years is no problem. "Al-Sirah Al-Halabiyah” says that Malik and Dahak Ibn al-Muzaim both remained in the wombs of their mothers for two years. The “Muhadarat” of Jalal al-Din al-Suyuti states that another person was in his mother’s womb for three years. The Imam of Cordoba, Ibn al-Arabiya, wrote that if a fetus could remain in his mother’s womb for five years, it could also remain for ten years or more. We discussed in a previous program the event in the Islamic history books when a child emerged from his mother’s womb after ten years knowing how to speak. Can any Muslim in the 21st century believe that a child could remain in the womb of his mother for four years? Can they bring one example from medical history? I would like to address this question specifically to the medical college of Al Azhar University. Can you find one example in history? I urge you to do your research, and come tell us.
And I have another question. If Muhammad was the first of God’s creation, why could God not cause him to have a normal birth, or a birth accompanied by miracles such as the birth of Jesus? Was his being born after remaining in the womb of his mother four years a miracle from God? I want people to think and ask themselves if the Muhammad whom they follow was the son of Abdallah. This is the question I ask the scholars of religion and the Ulema and the Shaykhs.
AHMAD: And what is your conclusion?
ABUNA: I am not a Muslim scholar. I am simply an observer asking a question.
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And asking that question was enough to have a 60 million dollar bounty put on his head. It’s small wonder that our government, academics, and media are frightened to criticize Islam.