* This book is a MUST for anyone who knows little to nothing about Islam. It is for anyone who wants to understand the War on Terror. It is for anyone who wants to understand the enemy in our midsts.*
The Truth About Muhammad
By Robert Spencer
Regnery Publishing, Inc. 2006
Available at all major books stores- Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Walden, Schuster, etc.
Type of Book:
The first portrait in almost half a century to speak uncomfortable truths about the world’s largest growing religion, the Muslim faith and it’s Prophet, Muhammad. A critique by an author who is willing to discuss the hard facts of the Prophet’s life unbounded by fear and political correctness. The book covers the birth of Muhammad, his first revelations, his pilgrimages, his war battles, his many wives and finally, his final day of death. Extensive documentation from all the most reliable sources used by Muslim scholars themselves is used to portray a man and a faith that touches the 21st century and every citizen around the globe. This is a book about the true nature of Islam, not the ideal version.
Per Regnery Publishing, Inc., Robert Spencer is the director of Jihad Watch, a program of the David Horowitz Freedom Center and author of the New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (And the Crusades), as well as four other books on Islam and terrorism, including, Islam Unveiled: Disturbing Questions about the World’s Fastest Growing Faith and Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad Still Threatens America and The West, as well as eight monographs and hundreds of articles. He lives in a secure, undisclosed location. Further information can be found on Wickepedia.
General Book Overview:
Spencer begins his book with some powerful thoughts:
“Five years into the War on Terror, it is still common place to hear Islam called ‘a religion of peace’. It is now also common to hear that term used derisively or ironically, in light of continued acts of violence committed in the name of Islam…Mounting evidence that jihadist violence is actually quite popular among Muslims worldwide has not made Western officials reconsider their view of Islam…As both reform minded Muslims and bloodthirsty jihadists invoke his example to justify their actions, the question of which group is likely to prevail in the future, and which will guide an Islamic world that is it the grip of a religious revival and increasingly hostile toward America and the West, will be largely determined by Muhammad”.
With those opening thoughts, Spencer moves on to the beginning of his book noting that this is not meant to be a comprehensive biography of the Prophet of Islam. It is also not meant to be the definitive analysis of the Qur’an or the Hadith. On the other hand, he did write this book to still be a very solid examination of the life of Prophet, his journey, travels, words and life as told by an author and expert in Islam from the Western world. It shows what is problematic about Islam and how Muslims justify violent actions or behavior in order to follow their most revered Prophet. Unfortunately, much of these actions and behaviors are not in accord with Western notions of human rights or dignity of person.
Spencer states he was very hesitant at first to write this book, share his knowledge and views in light of violence and death that seems to follow those who speak out against Islam. Example reactions to date:
- The Danish cartoon artists and the world wide backlash that caused 139 deaths and over 823 wounded
- The filmmaker Theo Van Gough and his gruesome murder
- Pope Benedicts speech and the resulting youth violence world wide
- Active violence in the U.K., France & other countries due to “perceived” Muslim discrimination for jobs, government welfare and housing
- Many scholars like Christoph Luxenberg, reform minded writers of Islam such as Hassan Shahid and Tarek Fatah and many others who have to be in hiding or go under pseudonyms in order to speak out else they will be subject to death threats or murders attempts on their lives.
Spencer notes after much deliberation, he decided this book had to be written. Undefended, we will loose our rights to free speech. Without intervention, we will also loose our rights to free thought. The subject matter is provocative he says – lethally so. The question of Muhammad, who he was, what he did, and what he believed is keys to understanding the global conflicts all citizens of the world are currently facing. Until we know the man, his words and his commands, we cannot begin to comprehend the jihadists and their motivations and ultimately, the clue as to how we can control, contain or eliminate the threats.
Spencer makes a point of saying, it is not necessary nor it is his intention to insult Muhammad, to deride him, to lampoon or mock him or to write anything except a scrupulously accurate account of what he said and did. Even with that respect level in mind, tempers run hot quickly as we have seen so often in the last two decades. If no one is willing to take risks like these, freedom as we know it will swiftly become a relic of history. This is not a Democratic, Republican, liberal or conservative issue. It is not even just an American issue. It is something of great importance to the entire world.
Spencer confirms that he relied exclusively upon Islamic sources for the life of Muhammad. The Sunnah is the gold standard for the Islamic faith – it includes the Qur’an, the Hadith and the Sira. In these books and writings, he was able to use the earliest biographical material available in the Islamic tradition, that which the best Islamic scholars use as well.
To elaborate further, the Qur’an (English spelling is Koran – I will spell it as this Islamic scholar does in his book) details a good part of particular incidents in the Prophet’s life, but it is not a continuous narrative. Often, things are written as if the reader knows the outline and outcome of the story already. Spencer refers in all cases to the deity of Islam as “Allah” (the same person that much of the rest of the world calls “God”). Allah, according to the traditional Muslim view point, spoke each word in this book to Muhammad through the Angel Gabriel (although some accounts state the Angel Seraphel came to him for the first three years and then Gabriel visited thereafter). Gabriel then visited Muhammad on and off for over 23 years with revelations during his journey as a Prophet. Spencer relied upon the English translations of the Qur’an made by M. A. Usuf Ali and M. M. Pickthall. Spencer does justice to his analysis and viewpoints in that whenever he notes an issue of importance, he provides a specific verse or sura in it’s original form for the reader to see first, then he makes separate commentary to support a position. This is much better than just giving a view point without the original text being able to be viewed. I believe this works best so, readers can decide if they want to have a different interpretation than the author. Keep in mind that writings are also placed in the Qur’an according to their length thus, later passages from the Medina time frame are often found first and those from his Mecca time frame are later as they are shorter.
Moving on, the Hadith is a complement to the Qur’an, as it elaborates on the traditions of the Prophet. This is second only to the Qur’an in authority for most Muslims and contains large amounts of information about the Prophet. It is from this work that most of the laws that distinguish the Western world from Islamic society have been taken (family, marriage, fidelity/infidelity, polygamy, business, schooling, trade, taxes, punishment, etc). Some feel it has some form of divine inspiration as well. Fairly early in the history of Islam, faithful Muslims assembled collections of the accounts of the Prophet’s words, deeds and stories that they weeded through to determine what was more or less authentic. Scholars grade traditions according to designations of sound, good, weak, forged and others. The Sahih Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are the highest and best collections in the Hadith. There are other collections (something like forty or more), but these two are considered the highest quality and are often the most cited.
Finally, there is the Sira, or biography of Muhammad. The first full length biography of the Prophet is by Ibn Ishaq and was done about 150 years after Muhammad’s death. This was the first attempt at providing a continuous narrative of the Prophet’s entire life. This original book is lost to history and exists in revised and more limited versions by the second biographer, Ibn Hisham who wrote his biography another 60 years after Ishaq died. Of interest, this second book contains some quotes and writings by other Muslim authors as well. Hisham is noted as saying that in his version there may be slight differences due to, “things which it is disgraceful to discuss, matters which would distress certain people, and such reports as perhaps not trustworthy” – translation – some areas have possibly been fine tuned, changed or omitted altogether. Ibn Sa’d is also cited as one of the earliest biographers of importance as well.
These are the three main books and collections that have influenced Islamic history and society. They are read and respected by scholars and followers today. Islamic apologists often state that the Qur’an has never been altered and there are no variations to it. It is in a pure state from Allah to Gabriel and then to Muhammad. Some outside scholars and critics do not feel this is the case based upon inconsistencies and some items they felt have been removed and/or altered. Thus, they feel these books may not be as pure as some apologists say they are. Regardless of how accurate all the documentation is, it is more important to understand that Muslims generally accept what has been written and told to them versus what actually happened, and this is what forms the foundation for their Muslim belief, practice and laws today.
A little background for you (numbers are as accurate as can be via historical information)…Muhammad was born in Mecca, Saudi Arabia in 570 CE. His father Abdullah, died before he was born. He was raised by a foster mother and nursemaid as was the norm until he was six and then he died as he was to be returned to his birth mother. From there, his grandfather helped raise him first and then his uncle Abu Talib raised him through manhood. Muhammad’s family was known as the Quraysh tribe, they were well known, seemed to be well off and they were pagans in Arabia. Muhammad traveled to many towns in the region via his uncle over the years as he was growing up.
According to tradition, stories abound saying during these travels that Muhammad was identified more than once by a Christian Monk, a local Jew and others as the Prophet foretold in Christian and Jewish religious scriptures. One thing to note, the testimonies by these Christians and Jews helped support Muhammad later when he tried to use doctrine to identify that he was the Prophet not only to his own people, but peoples of others faiths as well. This identification went on for years and even Muhammad supposedly recognized that he was special from an early age. Outside of these travels and periods of identification, Muhammad’s life was fairly normal.
Once he reached the age of 25, his life began to change. At that time, he became a salesman and sold trade goods for a wealthy older woman named Khadija in Syria. Two angels shielded Muhammad from the scorching sun and heat during one trip per a slave in attendance and thus, Khadija was impressed enough to marry him. She was 40 and he 25. Khadija had a cousin named Waraqa who was a convert to Christianity from Judaism and she was close to him. She told Waraqa of the angels visiting Muhammad and he immediately recognized him as the Prophet as well.
It would be awhile before Muhammad, Khadija and Waraqa finally realized exactly what the revelations from the Angel Gabriel meant. Both Khadija and Waraqa had profound impact on Muhammad’s middle life and to the evolution of the early Muslim faith as well. Many feel without their intervention on Muhammad and his life, Islam may never have evolved. Muhammad had to weather through the early years trying to understand what the revelations were all about, who they were really from and what he was to do with them. He was often confused, upset and close to suicidal at times per the historical testimonies. Muhammad wouldn’t declare himself as the Prophet of Allah until he was about 40 years old and only after he devoted himself to many years of long prayer and reflection.
The early periods of Muhammad’s development of the Islamic faith were fairly quiet and peaceful – the years 613-621. This period of growth and development does not seem to have a formal name, but for purposes of this review I will refer to it as, the Mecca period.
Muhammad began preaching Islam publicly by the year 613 in Mecca. For the next few years, he shared his revelations and his commands with people who slowly began following the Prophet’s ways. By 619, Muhammad’s own people the Quraysh, did not believe his visions and often challenged him. The Quraysh were firm in their pagan worship and would not accept Muhammad and his revelations. That same year, Muhammad’s first wife Khadija died and he was visited by another angel - Satan this time – and he gives the approval for Muhammad and the Quraysh to worship their pagan gods for one full year as long as a year later they recognized Allah and Islam. Muhammad didn’t realize until after he fact that it wasn’t Gabriel but Satan who gave him this incorrect information and revelation. This is known as the satanic verses incident (made famous by Ayatollah Khomeini & Salaamed Rushdie – the death threat). By 620, Muhammad believes he has been taken overnight to Paradise and meets all the previous prophets who came before him – Adam, John The Baptist, Jesus, Joseph, Moses, Abraham, etc. This journey is known as the ascension, Night Journey or Miraj and occurred on the now famous Temple Mount in Jerusalem. In the year 622, Muhammad and the Muslims flee Mecca and go to Medina in the event known as the Hijra. They left due to ongoing problems with the Quraysh and their rejection of the Islamic faith. They also wanted to make haste to other areas that would be more accepting of the word of the Prophet and Allah.
The years 624-632 until Muhammad’s death are violent years and the messages from Allah began to change dramatically. This was a time filled with over 27 war battles, taking of children and women as slaves, imposing a non-Muslim poll tax called the jizya, reducing the rights of women, the expulsion of pagans, murder of dissenters, taking food, homes, clothing, jewelry and precious metals as booty for the victors and Muhammad marrying additional 10-12 wives (including a nine year old girl named Aisha-his favorite, killing the Jewish Chief of Khaybar and taking his beautiful wife Safiyya as a spoil of war and many others along the way. There also appears to be some concubines in the mix too). He was proudly called the master of all of Arabia during this time of warfare, destruction and death.
Muhammad finally met his fate and died at the age of 63 due to natural causes in the year 632. He left behind no sons (the only one he had died early in birth), only daughters and eventually his legacy was continued by Abu Bakr as the first caliph. The largest body of Muslims remains the Sunnis (so called because they adhere to the Sunnah or traditions of Muhammad faithfully). Sunnis account for about 85% of the worlds’ Muslims. The remaining 15% are called Shi’a Muslims. They are a small faction that split from the main body of Muslims under another leader named Ali who felt he was the rightful descendent to Muhammad as he was a cousin and son-in-law by marriage to Muhammad. This group of Shi’ites evolved expressions of Islamic piety that at times are markedly different from the norms of the Sunni’s. More radical if you will. Ali was the fourth caliph but, was eventually assassinated years later. The Sunni-Shi’ite fault line still divides the Muslim world well into the 21st century.
During Muhammad’s nearly ¼ century Islamic journey, many of his revelations laid the foundation that would become Islamic law and doctrine. A foundation so strong it influenced followers 1,400 years ago and well into the modern world. Incidents such as:
- Praying 5 times a day (at one point Muhammad said Allah commanded 50 prayers per day. He got it reduced to lessen the burdens of his followers).
- Avoid Hasad or envy. The evil eye from others can take away the good things in life that Allah provides. So,beware.
- Insistence upon the veiling of women as the sight of an unveiled women is distressing and sinful (not to wear it and reveal skin, body parts or hair is a crime in many countries with serious punishment).
- That it takes four witnesses (male only) in order to establish a crime of adultery or related indiscretions (thus it is nearly impossible to prove rape in areas that follow Sharia law, many women who admit to rape are then charged with adultery as they admitted to sex with a man and witnesses can’t be proven thus, large numbers of women in middle eastern countries are jailed for these reasons only).
- That adultery should be punished by public stoning of the couple involved in the indiscretion (although the Qur’an doesn’t physically state this). It only commands lashes for adultery and the woman being confirmed to their homes until they die.
- Theft by a thief means cutting off a man or woman’s hands.
- Borrowing of ideas and concepts from Christian writings (The Bible/ New Testament) and Jewish writings (The Torah), even some gnostic and/or heretical sayings as well (incorrect information about Christ being crucified, who crucified him, ideas about heaven (paradise), Adam & Eve, other Prophets besides Muhammad, who are designated God’s chosen people, etc).
- Preaching of Monotheism - Islam is the only acceptable religion (practicing Muslims should only do so in Arabic. To speak/write/read in Arabic is the only true language of Allah).
- Revelations that Allah gave approval for Muhammad to marry his adopted son’s wife –his daughter in law. Muhammad asked for direction and Allah commanded this marriage.
- Allah declaring to Muhammad that it is fine to go to war during the holy times providing it benefits Islam. Many things are allowed as long as it benefits Islam.
- Allah declaring to Muhammad that piety will bring military victories.
- Allah declaring to Muhammad that he alone gets the booty of war and can divide the spoils as he sees fit thereafter.
- Allah gave Muhammad multiple revelations that People of the Book (Jews & Christian) were not to be trusted, were enemies and not to be befriended. They are said to be friends and protectors of each other only. Muslims are taught to reject Jews and Christians as friends and protectors.
- Allah gave Muhammad approval that People of the Book must pay a jizya (tax) as they are the guilty/protected people or dhimmis. They were believed to have received genuine revelations from Allah but, they rejected Muhammad as Prophet and distorted the revelations they received. Thus, they were guilty.
- The final veneration of Muhammad in the teachings that advise followers to be faithful, devoted and obey his words and actions as the human ideal.
Spencer raises many critical questions in this book that everyone should be asking:
Is Islam really tolerant of other religions?
Was Muhammad a real Prophet?
Did he have a gentle and peaceful side or just a side dedicated to warfare?
Were his visions and revelations really from Allah or something else altogether?
Was he a pedophile or a misogynist?
Why did he tax non-Muslims and reduce them to second class citizens?
Did he murder those who spoke out against him?
Why do jihadists imitate Muhammad and his reign of terror?
Is the rest of the world simply misunderstanding this religion?
What is Muhammad’s legacy into the 21st century and beyond?
It’s important to get these questions answered, for as Spencer notes, “Muhammad became more controversial than ever before in the Western World after the 9/11/01 jihad terror attacks. Numerous analysts and commentators made assertions about him and the religion he founded without ever bothering to investigate the actual record. Since knowledge about Muhammad in the West has always been sketchy, they can be excused; however, many of the questions on which his example was invoked and discussed are still relevant to the War on Terror and the relationship between Muslim and non-Muslim worlds”.
Although Muhammad had some early periods of kindness to his companions and his followers, he also invoked great mistrust, dislike and contempt for non-followers as the years and revelations went on. One only has to quote directly from the Qur’an, The Hadith and The Sira to see the evidence of the Destruction his legacy invokes.
Spencer advises the reader that we cannot claim ignorance any longer on this issue. Jihadists and even everyday Muslims use Muhammad as their perfect human example and use his words, actions and recommendations as their example and guide. Only by understanding Muhammad can we in the West understand what he said and how it can affect each one of us. He continues these thoughts stating too many Western governments and officials dismiss the twisting of this religion by a crazy few or the hijacking of Muhammad’s message for their own good as isolated instances. Even many non-Muslims refuse to accept the reality of what Muhammad did and taught because the real analysis and implications are terrifying. Many assume that identifying the parts of Islam that are problematic will add to the current jihad violence. Many leaders fear we will end up in a clash of civilizations – West against the entire Islamic world if we dare to challenge the elements of Muhammad’s life that cause Sharia environments to spread.
Spencer is strikingly clear, if we refuse to confront these deadly challenges, that lack of confrontation will NOT stop jihadists and extremists and even some moderates from their ultimate goal. Islamic rule.
Spencer ends his book discussing that there are some things that can be done to stop this growing wave of suppression of human dignity and rights, on-going destruction and threats of suicidal death bombers:
- Stop insisting that Islam is a religion of peace
- Initiate a full scale Manhattan project to find a new energy source
- Make Western aid contingent upon renunciation of the jihad ideology
- Call upon American Muslim advocacy groups to work against the jihad ideology
- Revise immigration policies with the jihad ideology in view
He reminds the reader, “The words and deeds of Muhammad have been moving Muslins to commit acts of violence for 1,400 years now. They are not going to disappear in our lifetimes, nor can they be negotiated away…If no Western politicians can be found who are courageous enough to grasp this nettle, Western countries will eventually pay a stiff price, when the jihadists they have admitted carry out successful jihad attacks, inspire native born Muslims to do the same or when they advance Sharia provisions by peaceful means as in the campaigns in the U.N. and several European countries.”
Only active participants who learn about the REAL man and his religion can form a solid plan to avoid a collision course with history. The sooner someone stands up, the better. If this problem continues or is ignored, “Muhammad will continue to inspire his followers to wield the sword in his name."
On a side note, Mr. Spencer is beginning an interesting process this month on Michelle Malkin's website HOTAIR. He is going to be reading the Qur'an from front to back and posting his readings and review over the next few months. He has decided to do this as many apologists have come to him and challenged what he has read in deciphered documents. Mr. Spencer wants to share with the world what apologists refuse to read and accept themselves. I highly recommend all readers consider checking out his postings on a monthly basis if they are interested in this topic.
Part two – the personal review section and the final rating to follow separately due to length of review.
The Local Area Watch