Islam Under Scrutiny by Ex-Muslims

Muhammad and Islam: Stories not told before, Part 3

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Muhammad also bore a feeling of ill-will towards the custodians of the Ka’aba. He did not think they deserved to be its guardian, as they were not righteous. He believed that by misusing their authority, they avoided sharing the temple’s revenues with those to whom a part of the revenues rightfully belonged. In his judgment, only the Allah-fearing and those people, who were willing to share the temple’s wealth with poor and orphans, had the right to be its guardian.

The financial independence that his well-paid job brought gave him an opportunity to look back and recount the treatments he had received from the women of Abd al Motallib and Abu Talib’s families. He also recalled his abandonment in Mecca by his mother. Recollection of what he had endured at the hands of the ladies of his grandfather’s and uncle’s homes as well as his abandonment by his mother instilled in his mind a sense of bitterness towards his opposite sex.

The recurrence in his mind of the past humiliations, betrayal, ill-treatments and insults rekindled in him his tribal instincts of retribution. He vowed to avenge his sufferings in a subtle, systematic and effective manner. The treatment of women prescribed in, and the restrictions imposed on them, through the Quran as well as Muhammad’s own treatment of his wives are good examples for proving our point.

As time passed, Muhammad became determined to fulfill his ambition. The more he thought about them, the more plans came to his mind. The more he talked to his friends and acquaintances, the more input he got from them on many of their common concerns. Positive thoughts and responses prepared him to go into offensive to realize what he had set out for him to be his goals.

By the age of twenty-five, Muhammad was able to finalize all the details of the goal he had thought of achieving in his life.This was also the ripe time for him to get married, but he could not marry any free and eligible woman, as he did not have enough number of camels or a large amount of money to give as dowers to the father or guardian of the woman he may have decided to marry.

After giving full consideration to his own situation, he came to the conclusion that he needed to find a woman whom he can marry not only without paying the dowers, but she should also be in a position to support him financially, when he will engage himself in an enterprise that will be necessary for him to fulfill his life's ambition. Knowing that there were not too many women in Mecca and its neighborhoods who could do what he expected his future wife to do for him, he decided to wait, and see what comes his way in days to come.

At the time Muhammad was looking for a suitable bride, there lived in Mecca a widow named Khudeija, a daughter of Khuwalid, of the tribe of Quraish. She had been twice married. Her last husband, a wealthy merchant, had recently died and she needed to hire help to manage her business interests.

Khudeija had a cousin by the name of Waraqa ibn Nofal. He was a professed monotheist and is believed to have translated portions of the Gospels into Arabic. He wielded much influence over his sister Khudeija; she being alleged to be a regular reader of his works. Both of them held identical views on religious matters, but in cases where they differed, the opinion of Waraqa always prevailed.

Muhammad had become acquainted with Khuzaima, a nephew of Khudeija, during his business trips to Syria. The latter had seen the former conducting his business in an efficient and profitable manner, and he was impressed. After their return home, they met frequently in and around the temple of Ka’aba, where Muhammad loved to spend his time after carrying out, in the manner of hajj, seven circuits, round the shrine.

One day, in course of his conversation with Khuzaima, Muhammad expressed his desire to find a job that would pay him more than what he was being paid by his current employer. Khuzaima told him that his aunt Khudeija was looking for a capable agent and that he might be a perfect candidate for the job. He promised to talk to Khudeija about him and also to try to arrange an interview for him with her.

Khuzaima kept his words, and he talked to Khudeija. She agreed to meet the candidate as soon as it was possible.

On the appointed date and time, Muhammad presented himself before Khudeija. She looked and found a twenty-five year old man standing before her eyes. He was of medium stature, inclined to slimness, with a large head, broad shoulders, and an otherwise perfectly proportioned body. His hair and beard were thick and black, not altogether straight but slightly curled. His hair reached midway between the lobes of his ears and his shoulders, and his beard was of a length to match. He had a noble breadth of forehead and the ovals of his large eyes were wide, with exceptionally long lashes and extensive brows, slightly arched and not joined. His eyes were said to have been brown or even light brown. His nose was aquiline and his mouth was wide and finely shaped. Although he let his beard grow, he never allowed the hair of his moustache to protrude over his upper lips. His skin was white but tanned by the sun.

His voice had a touch of music and the sentences he spoke were as rhythmic as the poems of the famed Arabian poet Labid. Khudeija was highly impressed, and she hired Muhammad to run her business.

She assigned her nephew Khuzaima and her slave girl Maisara to him so that they could assist him during the trade missions he was expected to lead to Syria, the Yemen and other destinations from time to time. During all his missions, he performed his duties most diligently, thus earning for himself the admiration of his employer. She afterwards sent him to the southern parts of Arabia on similar pursuits, in all of which he achieved successes beyond his employer’s expectation. Every opportunity Muhammad got to prove his worth, he did his best to excel so that he could endear himself to his employer. Every time Khudeija heard about his success; it enhanced in her not only his esteem, but also his fondness.

While Muhammad was applying all his tools to climb the ladder of success, Khudeija turned forty, her age having enabled her to gather the valuable judgment and experience that was necessary to lead a successful life. She longed for a partner who could give her all that that she had been missing ever since the death of her last husband. She considered many probable candidates, but, at the end, her choice fell on Muhammad.

Although her heart yearned for the fresh and comely youth, yet she restrained herself before taking steps to fulfill her desire. She had to overcome the ancient Arab tradition that barred women of her age from getting married, together with the objections she expected from her immediate family members. Of particular concern to her was the attitude of her uncle, Amr ibn Asaad, without whose approval it would have been impossible for her to marry the man of her choice. She needed to create a situation that would not only make the man of her choice appear special, but also to force her uncle to sanction her marriage with him as well.

Soon an opportunity presented itself for Khudeija to exploit. One day at noon, she was with her maids outside her house, watching the arrival of the caravan conducted by Muhammad. As it approached its termination point, an errant patch of cloud appeared on the horizon, blocking momentarily the sun’s rays from reaching the earth. Seizing the opportunity, she shouted to her maids and exclaimed: “Behold! It is the beloved of Allah, (i.e. the same deity of Ka’aba the Pagans called “Allah”) who sent two angels to watch over him!”

Her maids strained their eyes and looked out as far as they could see in their effort to locate the angels, but they saw none. Having inkling of their mistress’s passionate feelings towards her heartthrob, Muhammad, they joined hands with her, and repeated loudly what she had told them. The purpose behind such an exercise was to boost Muhammad’s image, through publicizing, what Khudeija had made out to be a divine favor as well as to warn her uncle of the consequences from heaven should he reject Muhammad’s proposal to marry his niece.

Thus creating a ground that was going to support her cause; she wished to waste no time and offered herself secretly in marriage to Muhammad through her trusted slave, Maisara. Muhammad had been waiting for such an opportunity to come his way, and when it came, he accepted it without wasting any time. The major success thus achieved, he, as the Arabian tradition required, needed to make a formal proposal of marriage to Khudeija’s uncle Amr ibn Assad who acted then as her guardian, her father having been previously killed in a sacrilegious war.

The Arabian marriage traditions vastly differ from the ones observed by most of the non-Arab Muslims of the present day. As required by his tradition, an Arab groom has to propose his marriage to his would-be bride through her parents or guardians, and if they accept the offer, he is required to pay dowers to his betrothed’s parents or guardians for granting him permission to marry their daughter or ward. Arabian marriages were, and still are, based on contract, with religion playing no or little role in them. This is not the case with the non-Arab Muslims, especially those of the Indian sub-continent, where nearly half of the world’s Muslims live; here, it is the brides who pay dowers to their would-be husbands in order to induce them into marrying them. This they do despite their ardent desire to live their lives according to the practices and traditions of the unruly and hypocritical Bedouin Arabs of Islam’s holy land to whom they are nothing today, but beggars (miskin) in the belief that doing that takes them closer to their beloved Prophet without whose intercession Allah may not pardon their sins on the Day of Judgment!

Following their tradition, Abu Talib and Hamza, two of Muhammad’s uncles, accompanied their nephew to Khudeija’s house, where she secretly arranged a party. She had not, it seems, broken the news to her uncle; she intentionally kept him unaware of the significance of the occasion. In the presence of all men, Muhammad sought from Amr ibn Assad his niece Khudeija’s hand in marriage, hearing which the old man flew into a rage and declined the union. He explained that everything was against such an idea: Muhammad’s age, the fact that he was in Khudeija’s employment and, above all, he did not have enough money to justify his marriage with a wealthy lady. In his mind, the marriage meant dispersing her wealth, instead of keeping it in her family. Subsequent events proved that the old man was right in his thinking.

Khudeija had anticipated such a situation and prepared herself to handle it in a favorable manner. She methodically plied her uncle with wine until he was drunk. On cue, Abu Talib delivered a forceful speech, laying out all the splendid qualities that his nephew possessed. After him, Khudeija herself made a fiery speech, describing how the angels had protected him from heat, and also eulogizing all the deeds that Muhammad had performed for her and the family. In the end, she exhorted her uncle to recognize Muhammad’s favors, and to accept him as his son-in-law. Following Khudeija’s speech, all present prompted Amr ibn Assad to respond to it.

Before he knew what all was about, he made his speech through which he approved the marriage. Waraqa ibn Nofal promptly seconded; whereupon, Muhammad at once clothed the old man in the robe, which according to the Arabian tradition, a son-in-law gave his father-in-law at the wedding. Khudeija immediately had the terms of the contract laid out, signifying the conclusion of the marriage before her uncle could realize that he was duped, and declared the marriage void. This marriage is believed to have taken place in 595 A.D., when Muhammad was twenty-five and his bride forty years old.

The incident narrated concerning Khudeija’s marriage with Muhammad deserves a special mention, not only because it was a milestone in the life of the future Prophet of Islam, but also because it illustrates the position women occupied in pre-Islamic Arabia. We have noted that Khudeija was an independent woman who ran her own business and that it was she, not her future husband, who had first proposed the marriage. Apart from her, we also know that there were other women in pre-Islamic days who not only took part in the affairs of Mecca by the side of their men; they also participated in business ventures without their men being involved in them. They, moreover, often exercised considerable influence as prophetesses or as poetesses. At the annual fairs in the neighborhood of Mecca, particularly at the fair of Oqhad, women are known to have entered along with men in poetic contests and recited their price-winning poems before the public.

The above observations provide us a glimpse of the extent of freedom that the women of Arabia used to enjoy before the dawn of Islam and negate the claim of the Muslim doctors who tell us that it was Islam, which has granted women those freedoms with which they have been living their lives in our modern time. In reality, the contrary is true. It is, in truth, Islam, which has not only snatched away much of women’s previous freedom and liberties; it has also made them slave to the whims and fancies of their men. In the sight of Islam, women are deficient in memory. Therefore, two women are equal to one man.

Muhammad’s lifestyle after his marriage with Khudeija

As Muhammad had expected, his marriage with Khudeija changed his life. It placed him among the most wealthy and influential men of his native city. He was no more a servant; to the contrary, he became the owner of his wife’s wealth, and of her business. People began to respect him. They also allowed him to participate in both their casual and formal meetings, an important privilege that they had been denying him before on account of his circumstances.

During this time, he lived in a household where the resident oracle influenced him greatly in his religious opinions. This was his wife’s cousin Waraqa ibn Nofal, a man of speculative mind and flexible faith; originally a Jew, subsequently a Christian, at the same time, being a pretender of astrology.

After the marriage, Muhammad continued to work for his wife as before, but now with a freedom that afforded him much time to build his image before the people of Mecca and its neighborhood. To succeed in this, he carried himself well socially. Soon, he succeeded in establishing himself as a role model among the people, not only by dispensing favors at the cost of his wife, but also by dealing with them even-handedly in situations that offered him the sought-after opportunities to get himself involved. Herein, we shall describe a crisis that involved the Meccan people and which, we are told, he helped resolve amicably, thereby earning for himself the admiration of the people.

In 605 A.D., when Muhammad was thirty-five years old, the people of Quraish decided to roof the Ka’aba, which, it appears, had hitherto consisted of only four walls with no covering on its top. An examination of the masonry revealed that the existing walls were too weak to support the weight of a roof, whereupon, the Meccans decided to demolish the entire structure, and, in its place, to build a new edifice with a roof. After building the walls, the people faced the dilemma of finding the wooden planks and a carpenter to make the roof, for neither of the two existed at the time in the entire land of Arabia.

During their plight, it so happened that a ship, belonging to a Greek merchant wrecked, possibly on the coral reefs of Jeddah. This accident provided the desperate Meccans with the ship’s timbers for the roof, which an Egyptian Copt. Carpenter, who happened to be in Mecca at the time, undertook to erect at their behest.

The story of roofing the Ka’aba brings to light an important aspect of the Meccan life at the time of Muhammad. The fact that the temple itself had no roof bolsters the position of those who maintain that since the “House of Allah” had, in all probability, consisted merely of tents surrounded by walls, the Meccans of the time must also have lived, out of compulsion, in homes without roofs.

A large black stone, possibly a meteorite, had been built into the wall of the primitive Ka’aba. The Pagans regarded it with peculiar veneration. When the building of the walls reached the level at which the black stone had formerly been planted, each of the clans of the Quraish demanded the privilege of placing the stone back in its original position. Excited and heated debate ensued, and an outbreak of violence, bordering on bloodshed, seemed imminent.

At this juncture, Abu Umaiya of the clan of Bani Makhzoom, said to be the oldest man of the tribe of Quraish, came up with a suggestion. He proposed that all present should agree that the first man who entered the court of the Ka’aba from that moment on should be asked to judge the dispute. All agreed and began to await the arrival of such a man.

A few minutes later, they saw Muhammad entering the sacred premises. Informed of the pact that the Meccans had agreed to, he called for a cloak, spread it on the ground and laid the black stone on it. He then asked one representative of every clan to take hold of the edge of the cloak and to raise the stone together to the required height. Once this was done, he, with his own hands, laid the stone in position in the wall, thus resolving a deadly issue with a brilliant presence of mind. This episode is said to have enhanced his stature and esteem, prompting people to refer their disputes to him for resolution.

Call from Allah

In the period following Muhammad’s marriage with Khudeija, but before the commencement of his preaching of the Oneness of Allah, many religiously sensitive men in Mecca are said to have withdrawn from the idol worshipping of Ka’aba. Prominent among them were: 1. Waraqa ibn Nofal, 2. Ubaydullah ibn Jahsh, 3. Uthman ibn al-Huwayrith and 4. Zaid ibn Amr. Many other Pagans also converted to monotheism with the realization that their people had corrupted the religion of their father Abraham and that the stones they circled around were of no account. In conclusion, they wished to see a change in the form and substance of their antiquated religion. Others, having grown disillusioned with Judaism and Christianity, went their ways in search elsewhere in the land, seeking Hanifiya, the pure religion of Abraham that shunned idolatry.

They were particularly interested in seeing Hanifiya introduced once again, for they believed, it was based on fairness and justice. It was the absence of Hanifiya, so they reckoned, due to which the custodians of the House of Allah had turned into selfish beings, who did not care even for those who were abysmally poor and went hungry. They wanted see the grip of these selfish people over the Ka’aba removed, so that fairness and justice could be dispensed to all the people of Mecca.

The manipulative and opportunistic Waraqa ibn Nofal, having closely observed some of the Meccans suffering and disenchantment with idol worshipping, felt that it was the right time to introduce his doctrine of One Allah as well as the concept of Resurrection to his targeted people. As he could not do it himself, he began to look out for a man from among the influential tribes of Mecca to implement his mission. He consulted his sister Khudeija, and lo! Both of them found a candidate in their midst by the name of Muhammad Mustafa. He fulfilled all the criteria both of them considered necessary in a man to accomplish the arduous and risky task they planned to entrust to him. Upon confiding in him, they found him more than willing to oblige them with his cooperation - not merely for their sake, but also for his own, for he himself cherished a dream to dislodge the Ka’aba’s custodians from their positions together with reining in the Meccan trading community - all of whom he considered to be a selfish and greedy bunch of despicable humans.

Since his marriage with Khudeija, Muhammad had plenty of time to reflect on what he had heard and learned during his caravan journeys and also from the people he had the opportunity of mingling when they came to Mecca, either on pilgrimage or for trade. The indoctrination of the hermit Bahira also recurred in his mind, giving him the conviction that the idolatrous Pagans should be made to worship only one true Allah, whose nemesis already lived in the form of a statue in the Ka’aba and that this Allah should rule their hearts and minds. Muhammad picked up the name ‘Allah’ to represent his concept of a lone deity for the reason that the Pagans were already acquainted with Him, making it thus unnecessary for him to explain afresh to them the lone Deity’s nature and attributes.

Thus determined, Muhammad wished to implement his concepts and doctrines, most of which had their origin in Judaism and Christianity, and haphazardly stored in his memory without much delay. His early-life preparations notwithstanding, he recognized the fact that his mission was loaded with enormous challenges, to overcome which, he needed to learn more about the Jewish Torah as well as about the Christian Scriptures. He also desired to know as much as was possible about the Talmud and Midrash traditions, then current among the Jewish groups. Waraqa concurred, and they decided that they should begin the teaching, and the learning sessions, forthwith.

The sessions could not be begun from Khudeija or Waraqa’s house, lest it be known to the people of the city. Muhammad, perhaps, influenced by those Christian hermits whom, he had seen on his trips to Syria, living in caves, chose one of the caves of Mount Hira for the purpose.

Muhammad and Waraqa took to spending most of their time in the cave, often, joined by Khudeija, who, as we have noted earlier, was known to have studied the Gospels at the urging of her cousin, Waraqa. Waraqa found his student to have an uncommonly sharp and retentive memory and a voracious appetite for learning. He poured out all the knowledge of Midrash and Talmud that he had, knowing fully well that his student, during the propagation of his faith, would have to depend heavily on what he taught him during his tutoring sessions.

While the tutoring process was continuing, Waraqa recognized the fact that he alone could not prepare Muhammad fully for the momentous mission he was soon to embark upon, and that if he wanted to see his surrogate succeed, he then must seek the help of one whose erudition on the subjects he was imparting to him was superior to his own.

Waraqa knew a monk by the name of Adas; some say his name was Suhaib ibn Sinan, who was well versed in the desired subjects, but spoke in Hebrew. Waraqa, himself knowing Hebrew well, enlisted his help, and both of them began teaching Muhammad all they knew about the Jewish and Christian Scriptures.

Perhaps, it was the same monk Adas or Suhaib, whom Muhammad had alluded to, while refuting the Pagans who accused him of being taught all that he spoke, including the details of heaven and hell, by a human being, and not, as he claimed, by Allah.


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