Monday, June 1, 2009

Muhammad and Death

My Islamics professor at Temple University, Sayyid Hussein Nasr, once told us that Muslims face death with more courage than people in the West.

A Muslim scholar recently presented "The Details of Death", in which he presented a glowing picture of the experience of death for Muslims in contrast to the horrors of death for the nonbeliever. The question to be asked is, "Why did Muhammad package death in such an attractive way for his followers?"

The simple answer is that Muhammad called men to die. Included in their willingness to follow him was the belief that dying for him would give them rewards from Allah.

One of Muhammad's early disciples, Abbas ibn Ubada, understood this well. He and his associates realized that following Muhammad would mean fighting and death. When they asked Muhammad what their reward would be, Islam's prophet gave a one word reply, "Paradise."

Ibn Ishaq's full biography of Muhammad, which I would guess not one Muslim in a thousand has read, gives a detailed history of the many raids that Muhammad either led or sent his followers to fight. It is impossible to carefully read the account of these battles and honestly conclude they were in any way defensive. Story after story begins, "The apostle stayed only seven nights in Medina before he himself made a raid against Beni Sulaym", or "After the apostle returned from the raid of Al Sawiq, he stayed in Medina for the rest of the month and then raided Najd", or "From Al Ula, the apostle sent his forces to Syria where they met with disaster at Muta."

Hundreds of men died in these battles. They sacrified their lives for Muhammad's dreams of expansion and power. What better way to motivate them than giving them promises from Allah of the paradise awaiting them if they died? What better way to manipulate people today to follow the same Muhammad than by promising them a glorious experience of death in contrast to the horrible fate that awaits those who do not obey him?

1 comment:

aemish said...

This is not unlike our own American culture of martyrdom, or Israel's (as detailed in the following review of Idith Zertal's book, Death and the Nation; and published in an English translation under the title, Israel's Holocaust and the Politics of Nationhood, from The Nation magazine some years back) -- or ANY militaristic nation or culture for that matter. I might have preferred at least an attempt at objectivity, but what they hay, it's your blog, do what ya want :p And I'm not gonna lie.. your tone at times is downright amusing. I chuckled audibly a few posts back when you described your descension into Islamaphobia during two years you spent in Iraq.

book review: