In the wake of every terrorist act there is the same argument. The voices-in-the-wilderness right will say, insofar as they’re not muzzled with hate-speech laws, that Islam is the problem. In contrast, a leftist drumbeat of media and mainstream politicos will assert that the Muslim terrorists aren’t really “Muslim” terrorists, that they’ve perverted the faith. As to the truth, it’s as with any other debate over a thing’s true meaning (e.g., the Constitution): it only makes sense to look for answers in original sources.
This brings us to a simple question: Was Mohammed a true Muslim?
It’s a rhetorical question, of course. As Islam’s founder — the religion was born of revelations he supposedly had in the early seventh century — Mohammed was the very first Muslim. Moreover, since Muslims view him as “The Perfect Man,” the ultimate role model, he’s not just the truest Muslim but the yardstick by which other Muslims may measure themselves.
So what was Mohammed’s “perfection”? He was a warlord who launched approximately 30 military campaigns, many of which he led himself. He was a caravan raider (a bandit) and captured, traded in and owned slaves (by the way, will liberals suggest slave-owning Mohammed be diminished, as they’ve done with our founders?). He ordered massacres, used torture and had dissidents assassinated. In 627 AD, he beheaded more than 600 men and boys of the Qurayza tribe in Medina, Arabia, thus wiping it off the map. He also was a polygamist and made it lawful for masters to have sexual relations with their female captives.
So, clearly, if today’s Islamic jihadists aren’t true Muslims, neither was Mohammed. But since we know the Perfect Man was the truest of Muslims, then…well, you can finish the sentence.
Yet when analyzing Muslim motivations, the influence of Mohammed’s character is generally subordinated to that of Islamic teachings (most of which come from Mohammed). And even here, people generally make the mistake of focusing only on the Koran, unaware it’s a mere 16 percent of the Islamic canon. The majority of it comprises the Hadiths and Sira.
This is noteworthy because while 9 percent of the Koran is devoted to jihad and political violence, 21 percent of the Hadiths is and a whopping 67 percent of the Sira is devoted to it, according to Bill Warner, Director of the Center for the Study of Political Islam. This is why Turkish journalist Uzay Bulut wrote in 2015 that “violence and domination” are “deeply rooted…and sanctioned with promises of rewards” in Islam, and, consequently, “fundamentalists will always find people to excite and people to persecute.”
The distribution of violent injunctions in these books helps explain something else. A German study involving 45,000 teens found that while increasing religiosity made Christian youth less violent, increasing religiosity made Muslim youth more violent.
This makes sense. A nominal Catholic may know a few verses from the Bible, but only a devout one scours it and, in addition, will read his catechism. Likewise, a casual Muslim may know a little bit from the Koran.
A serious one will soak it all in and delve into the Hadiths and Sira as well — and be exposed to all the violent injunctions therein.
Even more to the point here, however, these two sets of works together comprise the majority of the Sunnah, which is, as Islaamnet.com explains, “The legal way or ways, orders, acts of worship and statements of the Prophet, that are ideals and models to be followed by Muslims” (emphasis added). It is all about Mohammed’s words and deeds.
The significance of this cannot be overemphasized. Virtues (and vices) are caught more than they’re taught; actions speak louder than words. Thus are Christians more likely to ask “What would Jesus do?” than “What does the Bible say?” Thus are they more likely to counsel “Reflect Christ” than “Reflect Matthew 22:37.” Oh, the Bible is wonderful, and Matthew 22:37 is one of its most memorable parts. But examples are more powerful than instructions.
Muslims’ role model, their “Perfect Man,” is very different from Jesus in type of influence but not in degree of influence. As Warner points out, “The Koran says 91 different times that Mohammed’s is the perfect pattern of life. It is much more important to know Mohammed than the Koran.” Thus is “Mohammed” (and its spelling variants) the world’s most common male name, belonging to approximately 150 million men and boys. And there’s a reason why pious Muslims write “PBUH” (“Peace be unto him”) after his name and why they’ll riot if he’s portrayed in a cartoon. He is, in a sense, the human face of Allah.
Islaamnet.com makes this clear, writing that “when Allaah says: ‘Whosoever obeys the Messenger [Mohammed], has indeed obeyed Allaah’ (Surah An-Nisa 4:80), it should be clear that one has obeyed Allaah by obeying the Messenger.”
Islaamnet also informs that Allah commanded, “‘It is not fitting for a believer, man or woman, when a matter has been decreed by Allaah and His Messenger to have any choice in the matter. If anyone disobeys Allaah and His Messenger he is clearly astray’ (Surah Al-Ahzab 33:36).”
This Messenger is, again, that warlord, bandit, mass murderer, employer of torture, polygamist and slaver trader and master. Worse still, it’s not that Muslims always rationalize away or attempt to whitewash this history. The truly devout ones may consider these actions — when directed toward non-Muslims — to be “good” because the actions have been sanctioned by their perceived author of right and wrong, Allah, and his messenger.
So people sometimes talk about “reforming” Islam, but this would require reforming Mohammed himself. How? You cannot resurrect him and have him live his life over.
Among the founders of extant major or quasi-major religions/philosophical systems — Lao Tzu, Confucius, Buddha, etc. — Mohammed stands alone, being a tyrant-cum-teacher. Of course, he doesn’t stand alone in history; Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Tamerlane and many others paved similar bloody paths. As with them, he was largely a man of his time and place. But to more than a billion people, he’s also the perfect man even in our time and place.
And that’s the point. After all, if someone told you Attila the Hun was the perfect man and his role model, would you turn your back on that person?