Recently I offered 38 questions to ask those carrying signs proclaiming, “I’m A Muslim — Ask Me Anything.” Here are answers to questions eleven through fifteen.
11. The question is meant simply to elicit that for Muslims, morality is determined by whatever Muhammad thought or did. What else can the Messenger of God, the Seal of the Prophets, be but the Perfect Man and Model of Conduct? See Qur’an 33:21, 68:4 and 68:6. And you want to give several examples of what he did that most offends our non-Muslim sense of morality, but that do not trouble Muslims at all precisely because Muhammad is the agent.
First, there is the consummation – that is, sexual intercourse — of Muhammad’s marriage to nine-year-old Aisha. For Aisha, be ready to quote her own testimony, of how she was called away from her swings, in case Muslim Interlocutor (M. I.) tries to claim that “no one knows how old she was, but the main thing is that she had reached puberty.” Note that child marriages in Islamic societies have been accepted because of Aisha’s example, though not everywhere is a child bride as young as nine been allowed. When the Ayatollah Khomeini was alive, he reduced the age at which a girl could be married to nine, but now it has been raised to 13, which is still quite young. You might also mention that child brides – around age 15 – are allowed in several Muslim countries, including Afghanistan and Pakistan. And make sure to respond to the M.I. with the most disturbing example of the effect of Aisha’s marriage, which is in Saudi Arabia, where the Grand Mufti Shaikh Abdul Aziz Al Shaikh announced in 2014 that there would be no minimum age for child brides, which is still the rule. There was even a case of an 8-year-old forced by a court to stay married to a man in his 50s. Muhammad’s marriage has thus had consequences for tens of millions of Muslim girls over 1400 years.
A second example of Muhammad’s behavior as a Model of Conduct that will raise Infidel eyebrows is the killing of the bound prisoners of the Banu Qurayza, which Muhammad watched and even took part in. We regard it as an atrocity, but for Muslims, because Muhammad commanded it, it remains for ever acceptable. Should M.I. deny this happened, be ready to quote: “The Jews were made to come down, and Allah’s Messenger imprisoned them. Then the Prophet went out into the marketplace of Medina, and he had trenches dug in it. He sent for the Jewish men and had them beheaded in those trenches. They were brought out to him in batches. They numbered 800 to 900 boys and men.” (Ishaq 464)
A third and final example is Muhammad’s morality when it came to disciplining disobedient wives. Be ready to quote Qur’an 4:34: “Men are the maintainers of women because Allah has made some of them to excel others and because they spend out of their property; the good women are therefore obedient, guarding the unseen as Allah has guarded; and (as to) those on whose part you fear desertion, admonish them, and leave them alone in the sleeping-places and beat them; then if they obey you, do not seek a way against them; surely Allah is High, Great.” What can the M.I. now respond to any of these three examples of the “Perfect Man’s” conduct?
12. The question is meant to elicit the information that Muhammad had the helpless prisoners (Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe) brought out in batches to be killed, while he looked on. The number of prisoners is not known “exactly,” but between 600 and 900, according to Ibn Ishaq’s life of Muhammad, are believed to have been decapitated, with Muhammad taking part in a few of the killings himself. The precise numbers are not really the point, of course; it’s the enormity of the mass killings, a veritable bloodbath, that should make a deep impression on those listening to your exchange with the “Ask-Me-Anything” Muslim.
13. This question is meant to point out that Muhammad – in sharp contrast to Jesus or the Buddha — was a man steeped in violence; he neither preached nor practiced non-violence. He took part in 28 military campaigns from 623 to 630, which can easily be found at Wikipedia; you can read out the names, in what will be excruciating for your M.I., of the bloodiest of those campaigns. Can he dare deny that violence of every type is central to Muhammad’s biography? Onlookers will quickly grasp that aspect of Muhammad that M.I. has tried to hide or explain away.
14. This question refers to, and is asked in order to elicit, as an answer, M.I.’s acknowledgement (and recital) of the Verse of the Sword: “Then, when the sacred months are drawn away, slay the idolaters (mushrikun) wherever you find them, and take them, and confine them, and lie in wait for them at every place of ambush. But if they repent, and perform the prayer, and pay the alms, then let them go their way; Allah is All-forgiving, All-compassionate.” (Qur’an 9:5) The actual four “sacred months” — the first, 7th, 11th, and 12th months in the Islamic (lunar) calendar – are of course not the real point of the question, but are merely an oblique means of entry, to get the Ask-Me-Anything Muslim to offer the apologetics for which you will be ready. He will undoubtedly try to argue that this verse was meant to apply to a specific enemy in time and space – the Quraysh tribe of Mecca, with whom Muhammad was then at war — but there is no textual or other evidence to support this descriptive-not-prescriptive argument which is so often invoked. The classic commentaries nowhere hint that this verse no longer applies (as some modern apologists suggest); in fact, they note that 9:5 “abrogates” many other milder verses in the Qur’an. Answering one recent apologist, Robert Spencer quotes several of those commentators: “Ibn Juzayy notes that it (9:5) cancels out peaceful verses; he says that it abrogates ‘every peace treaty in the Qur’an,’ and specifically abrogates the Qur’an’s directive to ‘set free or ransom’ captive unbelievers (47:4). As-Suyuti agrees: ‘This is an Ayat of the Sword which abrogates pardon, truce and overlooking’ — that is, perhaps the overlooking of the pagans’ offenses.” Another possible line of apologetics M.I. will proffer is that these “idolaters” need only “repent” of their idolatry to be spared. But your response is that they must not only “repent” but also “perform the prayer” (that is, the Muslim prayers) and pay the alms (the Muslim poor-due or zakat). In other words, they must convert to Islam if they wish not to be killed, rather than merely “repent” of idol-worship. If there is one Qur’anic verse above all others to bring to the attention of onlookers, and for which you will be ready to knock down the predictable apologetics, it is 9:5.
15. This question is meant to elicit the fact that criticism or mockery of Muhammad was seen from Islam’s earliest days as punishable by death. Asma bint Marwan was a female poet who had written some verses mocking Muhammad. In several versions of this story, Muhammad exclaims “who will rid me of Marwan’s daughter?” One of his followers, Umayr, needed no more explicit instructions, and he killed her that very night. When he reported this to Muhammad, the latter exclaimed “You have helped God and his apostle, O Umayr!” You may wish to add, in an ostentatious show of scrupulosity, that this story, in its various versions, appears in what are considered to be very weak hadith by Islamic scholars.