Sunday, May 23, 2010

Omid Safi - Memories of Muhammad

To prove a theory, scientists observe natural phenomena or conduct controlled experiments. If the results confirm the theory, it passes from being merely a theory to a scientific principle.

In the world of belief and ideas, the process is the same. If you have a theory about what a particular group of people believes, listen to them carefully and read their writings. If what you learn confirms your theory, you can conclude it is correct. It might not be as easy to prove as natural science, but it is no less true.

My theory is that Muslims have a wishful, fanciful, idealistic view of the person they want their Prophet to be. The conviction that Muhammad was a wonderful and perfect man is inculcated into their minds and hearts before they take their first steps or utter their first sentences. Many of them spend the rest of their lives defending him from harm. They are emotionally, spiritually, and intellectually incapable of  honestly examining aspects of his life and teachings, as portrayed in their own texts or exemplified in the lives of their coreligionists, that go against their childhood impressions of who he was. Their identify is wrapped up in him, and they cannot imagine life without him. I have recently noted that they even reinterpret the Sira, Hadith, and Quran to fit in with their view of who Muhammad was.

One way to confirm or deny this theory is to carefully read books about Muhammad written by educated, Western Muslims. The best way to do this is with the book in one hand and Islam's original texts in the other. That's the only way to really determine whether the author is being faithful to his or her own history, or is trying to manipulate that history to deceive the reader.

If the thought of personally studying early Islamic texts and history seems too daunting or time-consuming, just read very thoughtfully. Early in her book The Muslim Next Door, Sumbul Ali-Karamali writes, "I was always taught that I would go straight to hell for gambling, along with drinking alcohol, engaging in unlawful sex, and committing homicide." She then describes how as an adult she avoids alcohol to the extent of refusing to cook with vanilla extract. Note that her cooking practices are not based upon rational, clear thought, but on what she learned as a child about the God of Islam. He would send her to hell for drinking a glass of wine, and now her children eat French toast without vanilla.

Ms. Ali-Karamali is not the only American Muslim who looks at the Prophet with rose-tinted glasses. In No god but God, Reza Aslan describes Muhammad's practice of robbing trade caravans as follows, "Just to make sure the Quraysh got Muhammad's message challenging Mecca's religious and economic hegemony over the Peninsula, he sent his followers out into the desert to take part in the time-honored Arab tradition of caravan raiding. In pre-Islamic Arabia, caravan raiding was a legitimate means for small clans to benefit from the wealth of larger ones. It was in no way considered stealing (italics mine), and as long as no violence occurred and no blood was shed, there was no need for retribution. The raiding party would quickly descend on a caravan - usually at its rear - and carry off whatever they could get their hands on before being discovered. These periodic raids were certainly a nuisance for the caravan leaders, but in general they were considered part of the innate hazards of transporting large amounts of goods through a vast and unprotected desert."

So robbing caravans carrying the foodstuffs entire Arab tribes depended upon for survival was just a matter of boys will be boys, like university students on spring break in Daytona? Tell that to Amr bin al-Hadrami. He was leading a trade caravan carrying dry raisins, leather, and other goods when Muhammad's marauders decided to attack. Historian Ibn Ishaq records that the Muslims determined to kill as many caravan personnel as possible before making off with the booty. Amr was killed with an arrow, the others were taken prisoner and later released for ransom, and Muhammad was given one-fifth of all the stolen merchandise.

The truth is that most of the people who migrated with Muhammad from Mecca to Medina were poor ex-slaves with no skills or trade. They joined illiterate Arab tribespeople in Medina who had migrated north from Yemen a few generations before and both worked for and stole from the Jewish majority who had lived in Medina for six centuries and were excellent farmers and tradesmen. The Muslims quickly put themselves in opposition to the Jews, and rather than meeting their economic needs by forming their own trade caravans found it easier to plunder the caravans of others.

In Footsteps of the Prophet, Tariq Ramadan continues the tradition of manipulating material from Muhammad's biography to bolster his own image of the Prophet that he learned as a child in Switzerland. I have discussed here Tariq's claim that Abu Bakr set the Muslim slave Bilal free in Mecca "as an example of the Prophet's emphasis on human rights". In reality, all Abu Bakr did was trade Bilal for a younger, stronger, black non-Muslim slave. The clear message communicated was not one of human rights, but that Abu Bakr was himself a slaveholder and Muslims have more value than non-Muslims.

The most recent book I read along this line is Omid Safi's Memories of Muhammad. It's difficult to do a usual review of the book, since it is merely more of the same style and methodology. In the early pages, Omid shows an "iconic image of the Prophet from the author's personal collection" that he describes as follows, "It is a lovely depiction of a kind, gently, yet resolute Prophet, holding on to the Qur'an and looking straight at the viewer with deep and penetrating eyes. He is depicted as a handsome man, with deep Persian eyes and eyebrows, and wearing a green turban."

This is the image of Muhammad that Omid holds in his heart, and this is the person he portrays. He describes Muhammad's "marriage" to Safiyya (also spelled Sofiya) as follows, "Safiyya was of a Jewish background. Her husband had been killed during the Battle of Khaybar, and she herself was reported to have been of a deeply pious nature. Muhammad offered her a choice of remaining Jewish and going back to her own people or becoming Muslim and marrying him. Her answer was: "I choose God and his Messenger."

I would find this description of Muhammad's relationship with Sofiya shocking were it not so normal coming from Muslim writers. Sofiya was of the Al Nadir tribe in Medina, one of the city's three leading Jewish tribes. Her father and other relatives had used the Hebrew Scriptures to refute Muhammad's claim that he was a Prophet sent to them from God. His response was to create verses condemning them that found their way into the Quran and in particular surat al-Baqarah. Quran 2: 101,102 is one example among many accusing these Jews of deliberately following Satan rather than submitting to Muhammad. Soon afterwards Muhammad claimed (God told him, of course) that the Al Nadir were plotting to kill him, and he led his army to attack them. They were farmers, not soldiers, and his attack consisted of cutting down the palm trees that provided their sustenance and establishing a blockade against them until they agreed to his terms of exile from the city. He stole their property and goods, allowing them to leave with only what they could carry on their camels. Some of them went to Syria, but the 16 year old Sofiya and her family took refuge in the nearby agricultural town of Khaybar.

Less than a year later Muhammad conquered Mecca with 10,000 soldiers and immediately turned his attention towards Khaybar. Sofiya's father and brother were beheaded, and her husband Kinana was tortured to death by Muhammad for refusing to reveal the source of hidden treasure (yes, Arab historians use the word "torture" to describe Muhammad and his soldiers branding Kinana's chest with hot iron before cutting off his head and yes, Muhammad was personally involved in the event). As the supreme brutal act of a conqueror proclaiming supremacy over his victims, Muhammad raped the wife and daughter of his Jewish enemies. Someone else had already claimed her, in accordance with law established by Muhammad for female prisoners of war, but recognizing the significance of personally having the daughter of the ruling family Muhammad exchanged two women to ravish Sofiya himself. One of his warriors even stood guard outside Muhammad's bedroom the entire night,  for fear that she might attempt revenge on the 60 year old man who had killed her entire family and was now forcing himself upon her.

Omid Safi would have us believe this young girl willingly gave herself to Muhammad and wanted to marry him. Would any sane woman choose to sleep with the man three times her age who had just beheaded her father, brother, and husband? What were her options? The protection he offered her as a member of his household (even though she lived with Aisha's constant scorn and jealousy as a beautiful Jewess) was better than being sold as a slave for horses and weapons as Muhammad had done with other Jewish women in Medina.

Omid Safi teaches at the University of North Carolina. I don't expect him to change his views about Muhammad; he has too much invested. As Tariq Ramadan, Reza Aslan, and others have discovered, defending Muhammad is a lucrative gig in America. There are always books to be written and talks to be given reassuring nervous Christians and Jews in their churches and synagogues they have nothing to fear from Islam.

What I do find interesting is that UNC is also the academic home of Bart Ehrman, a former evangelical Christian who as a result of his questioning and scholarship has concluded the Bible is not the Word of God, Jesus is not the Son of God, and Christianity is not true. I don't know if UNC has academically prostituted itself, as have other well-known universities and professors, to Middle East Shaykhs, Emirs, and Ayatollas in exchange for money (often millions of dollars) to teach a brand of Islam the sponsor would approve (anyone who has lived in Saudi Arabia, as I have, realizes the supreme importance of pleasing your sponsor if you want to keep your job). But it is an expression of 21st century academic irony in America that UNC is unable or unwilling to hire an ex-Muslim to teach in the Islamic Department who as a result of his or her study reached the same conclusion about Muhammad, the Quran, and Islam that Dr. Ehrman did about the faith of his youth. There are such people available, but hiring them involves risks major universities are unwilling to take. It's much safer to give students the "scholarship" of believers such as Dr. Omid Safi.


The Infidel Alliance said...

The reason Muslims descend into a frenzy whenever the image of Muhammed is brought up is because they know it will create critical discussion about their ‘holy’ prophet. That simply cannot be tolerated, because when the truth about Muhammed is exposed he is revealed to be a sadistic, violent barbarian.

Muslims have been brainwashed to believe he is some sort of righteous, moral religious leader, but he wasn’t. He was nothing more than a successful Charles Manson who made his living by intimidating, raping, killing, enslaving and looting.

The Koran 68:4 upholds Muhammed as “…an exalted [standard of] character.” Islamic tradition upholds Muhammed as ‘al-insan al-kamil’ or ‘the perfect man’, to be emulated by all Muslims.

The hard truth about Muhammed, as recorded in the Islamic ‘holy’ texts, is that far from being a a ‘holy prophet’ Muhammed was a sadistic sociopath.

Muhammed was a murderer, torturer, amputator, decapitator, slaver, looting stealing thief, rapist, human trafficker, misogynist, sex trafficker, child rapist, sexual deviant, perfidious liar, genocidist and self proclaimed terrorist.

Muhammed was perhaps one of the most vile men in the pantheon of human history, a brutal barbarian afflicted with narcissistic personality disorder, consumed by unquenchable sexual lust, greed and power.

By any objective standard, Muhammed should have been incarcerated not venerated, reviled not revered.

Every pathology that afflicts Islam comes directly from this sick man, Muhammed, and the entire world suffers because of him.

If you compare the actions of Muhammed and Jesus, man to man, by any objective standard Muhammed is undeniably an 'anti-Christ'. The same inescapable conclusion can be reached by comparing Muhammed and the Guatama Buddha.

I challenge anyone, Muslim or ‘infidel’, to disprove any of these points. Politically correct ‘Infidels’ might try out of simple ignorance or wishful thinking, but Muslims cannot and will not.

Muslims know this is true, because it is written in black & white in the Koran, Ahadith and Sirah Rasul Allah, recorded for posterity for all to discover.

Muslims understand that if the truth about Muhammed is known, the foundation of their entire ‘religion of peace’ collapses, as the savagery of Muhammed cannot be reconciled with higher human virtues like love, forgiveness, tolerance and peace.

Thus, rather than defend their barbarian prince they simply devolve into raging Mohammedan mobs, intimidating, terrorizing, destroying and killing, or default to lying and deception.

Muhammed is Islam's Achilles heel. Please help expose the truth about Muhammed.

~ The Infidel Alliance

Aziz Tayyab said...

Good article and good comments by the infidel alliance. I would just like to add my comment regarding "Mohammad by comparison with Jesus is Anti- Christ".
Allah,Islam,Mohammad,Muslims all deny and condemn the basic belief
of Christ/Christians in the Father and the Son and that makes them all Anti-Christ and Liars according to 1John2:22

Anonymous said...


Marc Manley said...

Your post operates from a number very large, yet cleverly disguised, vantage points: rationalism being only one of them that comes chiefly to mind. You assume that to "think rationally" is to "think clearly". Rationalism, however, relies as a great many presuppositions [particularly about the capabilities of the human mind], presuppositions that are far from error or critical analysis.

As for "Infidel Alliance" [find a better name, please], this poster also fails to examine why Muslims react to the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad [peace be upon him]. First, which Muslims are we talking about? Many of those Muslims come from backgrounds which have been oppressed [both physically and psychologically] by Europeans, and thus, they suffer a great inferiority complex. The poster does not take into account, though, the great numbers of Muslims who, coming from backgrounds that don't necessarily hold Europe's opinions on Islam, in all that high of esteem. In other words, if that very same cartoon had been drawn by a Honduran artist, would it have had the same weight, or would have those very same Muslims chuckled or ignored such a critique. Honduras is a country that has no history in subjugating Muslims. Europeans however, do have this history with some Muslims. That's why many Muslims can look at that cartoon and say, "that isn't the Prophet Muhammad - it's just a silly picture drawn by a silly person".

The conversation's much more deep and complex as to why the Prophet [peace be upon him] is so dear and precious to Muslims. Perhaps if you took the time to get to know Muslims of various strips, not just those you feel comfortable with ["educated Western Muslims" - whatever that means...], you might get a little closer to your answer, if you're truthful in your endeavor.

The Infidel Alliance said...

Dear 'Marc Manley',

My nom de plume will never change, because it accurately represents the fact that anyone, anywhere who is not Islamic - Jews, Christians, Buddhists, Catholics, Coptics, Protestants, Hindus, Sikhs, Zoroastrians, Baha'i, athiests, animists, pagans, women, children, homosexuals, even the wrong kind of Muslim - have been and continue to be specific targets of Muhammed's Jihad. So I will politely decline your suggestion.

I have to ask, seriously: What exactly made Muhammed so great and worthy of this fanatical allegiance?

Was it his sexual gluttony and perversion? His lust for stolen booty? His embrace of human slavery? His obsession with torture and decapitation?

No…what made Muhammed great was his evil legacy which he inflicted upon the world. His is a greatness akin to Adolph Hitler, Ghengis Khan, Pol Pot, Mao and Stalin….a legacy of killing and terror.

As horrible as his evil bretheren were, Muhammed is the gold medal grand champion because his legacy was the most insidiously evil, wrapped in its cloak of religiosity, and the most enduring. Muhammeds 1,400 year global jihad makes Hitlers dream of a thousand year Reich look rather pathetic.

Muhammeds legacy to the world was a true evil, nothing less than:



The Infidel Alliance said...


It is Islam against everyone, everything, everywhere that is not Islamic. It is Dar al-Islam against Dar al-Harb. Islam against us, not us against them.

THE ISLAMIC WORLD WAR, inspired by Allah, mandated by Muhammed, commanded in the Koran & this hadith: Bukhari (8:387) – Allah’s Apostle Muhammed said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’”

The FACTS speak for themselves:

Islam against:
- the Catholics in the Philippines (routine slaughter & beheadings)
- the Christians in Indonesia (routine slaughter & beheadings)
- Australian tourists in Bali (blown up…..TWICE)
- the Buddhists in Thailand (routine slaughter & beheadings)
- the Hindus & Sikhs in India (hundreds of years battling the Islamic Jihad)
- the Jews in Mumbai (slaughtered)
- the Zoroastrians & Baha’i in Iran (virtually exterminated)
- Islamic converts to Christianity in Afghanistan (death fatwa)
- ancient Buddhist statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan (blown up)
- the Chaldean Christians in Iraq (routine persecution, slaughter & church burnings)
- the Jews in Israel (routine attacks against civilians, threat of 2nd genocide)
- the Jews in Yemen (nearly exterminated)
- S. Korean & German tourists in Yemen (kidnapped, blown up)


The Infidel Alliance said...


Islam against:
- the Coptic Christians in Egypt (routine persecution, slaughter & church attacks)
- the Christians & animists in Sudan (stoning, amputation, genocide)
- the Christians in Kenya (constant Jihadist threat from Obama’s homies)
- the Christians in Nigeria (routine Jihadist attacks)
- U.S. embassies in Tanzania & Kenya (blown up)
- the athiests in Europe (the prime target)
- the native French in Paris (torched car terrorism)
- Jews in Paris (read the grisly story of Ilan Halimi, a Jewish shop clerk who was kidnapped, tortured and killed in 2006)
- the native Swedes in Malmo (Islamic rape brigades)
- the native Dutch in Amsterdam (routinely terrorized)
- Dutch politicians (Geert Wilders & Ayyan Hirsi Ali – death fatwa)
- Dutch cinematographers (Theo vanGogh savagely murdered by an Islamist in broad daylight)
- Dutch cartoonists (Kurt Westergaard – death fatwa)
- Dutch newspaper editors (Flemming Rose, Jyllands-Posten’s culture editor – death fatwa)
- Train commuters in Spain (blown up)
- Tube commuters in London (blown up)
- Airports in Scotland (blown up)
- Jews in Argentina (blown up)
- Jews in Caracas (blown up)
- Twin Tower office workers in N.Y. (blown up….. TWICE!)
- Defense workers in the Pentagon (blown up – airliner jihad)
- Army/Navy military recruiters in Little Rock (gunned down by an Islamist)
- Soldiers in F.t Hood Texas (gunned down by an Islamist)


The Infidel Alliance said...


Islam against:
- Delta Airlines Passengers on Christmas day (underwear bomber)
- Times Square patrons (SUV bomber)

The list goes on, and on, and on……

THE ISLAMIC WORLD WAR – It’s real – Inspired by Allah, mandated by Muhammed, commanded in the Koran, here in this hadith: Bukhari (8:387) – Allah’s Apostle Muhammed said, “I have been ordered to fight the people till they say: ‘None has the right to be worshipped but Allah’”

Islam has been dutifully following this mandate for 1,400 years, since the time Muhammed left Mecca for Medina. What we are facing is nothing less than an ISLAMIC WORLD WAR that rages on every continent except Antarctica, against everyone and everything “non-Islamic”.

It is not a ‘War on Terror’. It is not a small bunch of Islamic ‘extremists’. it is the prime directive, indeed the very core, of Islamic doctrine.

THE ISLAMIC WORLD WAR – Muhammeds evil legacy.

~ The Infidel Alliance

The Infidel Alliance said...

One more thought....

Know Muhammed, no peace.

No Muhammed, know peace.

~ The Infidel Alliance

Traeh said...

Marc Manley, you said, "As for "Infidel Alliance"...this poster also fails to examine why Muslims react to the depictions of the Prophet Muhammad."

Part of the reason for Muslim reactions to portrayal of Muhammad is that Muhammad instituted among Muslims severe penalties, including death, for those who blaspheme or insult Islam or Muhammad. That severity has been the reigning orthodoxy among Muslim authorities throughout Islamic history. Sometimes the orthodoxy is relaxed or not enforced, but it has not changed.

So naturally Muslims react strongly against insults or portrayals of Muhammad. Muslims who try to express anything different are always eventually marginalized and silenced, to put it mildly. They have been ostracized, punished or killed.

Then some silly people who for some pathological reason love the system and ignore its totalitarianism look around and, seeing no one criticizing the system, (because the system destroys anything else than praise), conclude that the system must in fact only merit praise. They choose not to see the evidence that everywhere criticism is being crushed mercilessly.

In an ecosystem, if there is a predator, say a certain bird that eats all gray moths, naturally only white moths will remain to testify, as it were. If a white moth could speak, maybe it would say, "see, there is no one among us moths here who feels victimized by the birds. Where is a moth complaining of harm? There is no such moth -- or at most one or two lunatics who should be ignored. Indeed, the birds carry out only beneficent actions toward us, the moths. Look they perch on the very same branches as we do, and we are the best of friends!" And you look around at all the moths there, and indeed, none of the moths before you complains. And if you don't know that's only because all those who were devoured, the gray ones, are gone and cannot complain, you might actually be fooled into thinking the birds are benign toward all the moths. You, Marc, are like the white moth. You forget all the many who did not revere the prophet of Islam, and who were devoured by him. You kid yourself that those who have really known him have only praised him.

Islam preys on dissent and snuffs it out by intimidation and violence. We used to see something similar in the Soviet Union: virtually all we heard publicly from people in the Soviet Union was what a paradise the place was or how nothing was wrong, and it was all much better than the evil capitalist West.

But of course. The few people willing to take the risk of criticizing were sent off to gulags and silenced.

I'll give a couple examples from core Islamic texts in the next comment.

Traeh said...

Marc Manley,
Here are a couple of examples:


Here, from Sunan Abu-Dawud, a hadith collection considered canonical by mainstream Muslim scholars (when they are not disinforming Westerners), is a hadith that shows Muhammad supporting the murder of a woman by her husband, merely because she used to speak to her husband insultingly about Muhammad:

Sunan Abu-Dawud, Book 38, Number 4348:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas:

A blind man had a slave-mother [a slave who bore children for him] who used to abuse the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and disparage him. He [the blindman] forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and abuse him. So he [the blindman] took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) was informed about it.

He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up.

He sat before the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her.

Thereupon the Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: Oh be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.

There are various examples in the core Islamic texts of Muhammad having those who insult Islam killed.

In Sahih Bukhari, the most canonical of hadith collections, Muhammad said, "Whoever changed his Islamic religion, then kill him."

An explanation for the reverence Muslims feel for Muhammad is ready-to-hand. Totalitarianism imposes a distorted form of reverence and uses force to silence criticism. Marc, you might try to claim that your reverence for Muhammad is not distorted. But the only reverence that is not distorted is the kind that can stand in the full light of criticism and honestly take in that criticism. Islam doesn't allow that. Its reverence is a hothouse, sheltered kind, fragile, brittle, fanatic, provincial.

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Susanne said...

Interesting post. I noted the same thing about caravan raiding when I read Reza Aslan's book last month! Kind of funny to see it here. :)

I live near UNC. I didn't know about that Islamic professor you mentioned - how interesting.

My Syrian friend told me they use powdered vanilla to avoid the alcohol in our vanilla extract. :)

Thanks for sharing this with me!

Unknown said...

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