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Was Muhammad Really a Man of Peace?

Last Updated on Monday, 07 July 2014 08:59

Question and answer details
Mark
2014/07/07
Why should we believe in a religion that began by a man who fought 68 battles, at least some offensive in nature? Was Mohammed really a man of peace, as his last words were to curse the Christians and the Jews? When Jesus was attacked and taken to the cross to be tortured - he gave himself up - his last words were to forgive those who tortured him. How could Muhammad really be a man of peace?
Dr. Mohsen Haredy
Answer

Salam (Peace) Dear Mark,

Thank you for your question and for contacting Ask About Islam.

Throughout his life, the Prophet (peace be upon him) spared no efforts in calling his people to God’s message with wisdom and good admonition.

Due to tribal conflicts, the people of Quraysh rejected the message and put the Prophet and his Companions to persecution. He was forced to leave Makkah and go to Madinah where he was also unable to preach Islam in peace.

Forced to defend God’s religion, the Prophet participated in seven battles only. In these battles the least destruction was done. Prophet Muhammad was the first to introduce the rules of war or combating. No children, women and old men are to be harmed. No trees, animals or houses of worship are to be destroyed. He put an end to the barbaric wars. Prophet Muhammad never gave orders to kill innocent people.

No battle was instigated by Muslims. All battles were in reaction to an attack on Muslims. The Prophet used to offer peace first. The Prophet asked the combatants to honor the treaties drawn up between Muslims and their opponents. Whenever the enemy laid down arms, the Prophet stopped fighting.

The Prophet also introduced unprecedented rules for Prisoners of War (POWs). Muslims treated those captured during wars kindly, and thus Muslims set good examples for 21st. century world on how POWs should be treated.

The actual fighting in Islam should be to help the oppressed people. (An-Nisa’ 4:75) This is the type of fighting for which there is a great reward in the Hereafter.

Fighting in Islam is allowed against those who wage war against them. This is termed today as war in self-defense. At the same time, Muslims are urged not to commit aggression. (Al-Baqarah 2:190) When there is a space for peace, Muslims are ordered to accept it. (An-Nisaa’ 4: 90)

As for cursing the Jews and Christians you referred to in your question, it should be understood in its proper context. The Prophet was warning Muslims against taking his grave a place of worship as the Jews and Christians did with the graves of their Prophets. He was assuring Muslims that he was no more than a human being like them and like the Prophets who came before him.

Prophet Jesus (peace be upon him)

You are referring to Prophet Jesus who when he was attacked and taken to the cross to be tortured, he gave himself up and his last words were to forgive those who tortured him.

First, Muslims do not agree with the biblical narration of the crucifixion of Jesus and his death on the cross. Muslims believe that God saved Prophet Jesus from death on the cross and that he will come back to earth as a just ruler. See for example the following answers for more details:

The Alleged Torture and Crucifixion of Jesus

The True Story of Jesus

Jesus: The Inspired Teacher

The Story of Jesus son of Mary

Top 30 Questions & Answers on Jesus in Islam

Prophet Muhammad’s Forgiveness

If we read the Prophet’s authentic biography, we will see how the Prophet reacted to the different situations in which he was attacked. A prime example is what the people of At-Ta’if did with the Prophet. They stoned him and injured him severely. The Prophet forgave them and prayed to God that He may guide them to Islam. Prophet Muhammad’s message is about mercy, forgiveness, and peace.

Throughout Islamic history, people of other faith communities practiced their beliefs freely and they were never forced to convert to Islam. The best description of the Prophet’s tolerance towards such communities is given in the following words of the Quran:

{To you be your religion, and to me be mine.} (Al-Kafirun 109:6)

Prophet Muhammad gave the best example of forgiving his opponents and co-existing with them in peace in the Constitution of Madinah whose authenticity is confirmed by Muslims and even non-Muslim scholars. In this Constitution, the Prophet explained the rights of non-Muslim communities on Muslims and the Muslim’s obligations towards to the non-Muslim communities in Madinah. You may wish to check these links for further details:

The Madinah Covenant

Covenant of Madinah: A Roadmap for Coexistence

What would you say, dear Mark, about a man who after returning from the battlefield used to tell his Companions: “We have returned from the lesser jihad (going to war) to the greater jihad (the struggle of the soul)”?

The Prophet considered self improvement and self purification more important than going into war. Can this man be a man of war?

Muslims believe that their duty towards their religion is to call others to it. The issue of guiding people to accept Islam is left to God. The Prophet was told in the Quran:

{… your only duty is to deliver the message…} (Ash-Shura 42:48)

This compels one to argue that Prophet Muhammad never fought to impose Islam on his enemies. The principle is:

{Let be there no compulsion in religion…} (Al-Baqarah 2:256)

{Say, ‘Now the truth has come from your Lord: let those who wish to believe in it do so, and let those who wish to reject it do so.’} (Al-Kahf 18:29)

Therefore, Islam had spread all over the world by the word not the sword.

If some still claim that Prophet Muhammad was a man of violence, what would you say about this quote from the Old Testament?

[They devoted the city to the Lord and destroyed with the sword every living thing in it - men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys.] (Joshua 6:21)

This is nothing more than total destruction and mass murder.

Dear Mark, what would you say about a man who enters a city victorious after being forced to leave it? This is what happened with Prophet Muhammad when he entered Makkah in the 8th Hijri year without fighting.

He was in a strong position and he could take revenge on the people who severely tortured him and his Companions. On the contrary, he set the best example of mercy and forgiveness and told the people of Makkah: “Go your way as you are free.”

Now, I ask you, Mark: Was Muhammad a man of peace?

Before answering this question let me explain that there is a difference between Islam as a religion and the way some Muslims practice it. Islam is a peaceful religion, but some Muslims are not always up to the expectations when personal interests and political biases prevail.

Now, it is safe to conclude that the argument that Muhammad was not a man of peace is a false one based on failure to read his biography correctly and understanding the circumstances that surrounded his defensive battles.

I hope this answers your questions.

Thank you again for your questions, and please keep in touch.

Salam.

Useful Links

Prophet Muhammad’s Mercy, Justice and Love

Prophet Muhammad: A Conqueror of Hearts

Prophet Muhammad and Freedom of Faith


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