This is your friendly neighbourhood exmuslim.
I was listening to the seerah yesterday and found this interesting incident where Muhammad confused his companions. He gave his companions an order but ended up in a situation where half of them couldn’t follow his order and ended up in a religious dilemma.
What you will notice here is that Muhammad made mistakes. Over and over again. Yet Muslims are supposed to live their lives according to what he said and did.
So this causes a problem. A problem of picking and choosing what to follow. In Islamic terminology this is called Usool al Fiqh.
Here’s what happened: Muhammad gave them an order. The order was we go and fight the Jewish tribe of Banu Qurayda which lived in northern Arabia, at the oasis of Madinah. Why did Muhammad make this order this way? What was so urgent? Because he wanted them to leave immediately. Right away. He was in such a rush to attack them that he ordered that nobody should even pray Asr until they get there. He wanted to corner that tribe before they could make any plans to protect themselves.
Now why would he say it this way? Because he knows that there’s a time limit to pray Asr. So he’s putting them in a bind so that they rush off to fight those Jews.
Problem is, it didn’t quite work. Half of them ended up not making it there on time.
This is a really good example of how the primary Islamic texts do not lead to straightforward conclusions. Muhammad gave them an order that did not make sense. An order that contradicted his previous teachings of “pray on time”.
So the companions were stuck in a dilemma. To pray or not to pray. What is the correct solution?
The solution would have been to make the order in a way that made sense. “Don’t pray until you get there, unless you are late”.
By not thinking through his order clearly, he ended up confusing his followers. And not only that, he never cleared up to them what was the correct decision.
This is a small example of how you run into religious contradictions based on the supposedly preserved statements Muhammad made. Each of these small examples over time snowball into larger theological issues.
This is why there are many sects and a multitude of religious opinions. Because sometimes Muhammad made mistakes. He said things that would lead to a later mess.
Muhammad said a lot of things that were contradictory. Even the Quran contradicts itself, Muhammad forgot verses, and others were abrogated.
The hadith says:
‘The Children of Israel split into seventy-one sects, and my nation will split into seventy-two, all of which will be in Hell apart from one, which is the main body.” Ibn Majah
Why would a true religion end up with so many problems, divisions, sects, contradictory opinions? Why would Islam need to be so broken like this? Why so many differing beliefs?
Many Muslims I know get overwhelmed with all this. They don’t know who to trust. This sheikh says one thing, the other sheikh says the opposite. One group says you can celebrate Muhammads birthday, the other one says its SINFUL to do so!
This small example shows you how short sighted Muhammad was. The fact is that his every word and action would be hung on to for 1400 years and used to determine the smallest issues means that he had to be more careful. Why didnt he clarify?
The entire system of fiqh is based on trying to resolve these contradictions. What do you do with the fact that Muhammad said a certain thing but did another one? Was it because what he said was specific for that time? Or was it an exception for him only? Does the Quran take precedence? Or the hadith? How do you reconcile this mess?
Here’s another example where Muhammad made a mistake and was caught:
“What is this noise?” They said: “Palm trees that are being pollinated.” He said: “If they did not do that it would be better.” So they did not pollinate them that year, and the dates did not mature properly. they mentioned that to the Prophet (ﷺ) and he said: “If it is one of the matters of your religion, then refer to me.” (Ibn Majah)
Muslims don’t just take religious advice from Muhammad. They take all sorts of worldly advice too. From using a miswak to clean their teeth, on how to wash after urinating and defecating, to using hijama (cupping) to cure disease and sickness. Not to mention there are still Muslims to this day who drink camel urine as a cure. What side to sleep on. How many gulps to drink you water in. How to not blow on your food. And so on.
And the problems get worse. Muhammad also admitted that he would have made things RELIGIOUSLY haram but he realized from other cultures that it wasn’t harmful.
“I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘I wanted to forbid intercourse with a nursing mother, but then (I saw that) the Persians and the Romans do this, and it does not kill their children.’ And I heard him say/when he was asked about coitus interruptus: ‘It is the disguised form of burrying children alive.” Ibn Majah
If we look deeper, we will see that the issues are even worse than Muhammad saying dumb things. It even affects the Quran. In this following incident Muhammad changed a verse on the request of a blind man
There was revealed: ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and those who strive and fight in the Cause of Allah.’ (4.95) The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Call Zaid for me and let him bring the board, the inkpot and the scapula bone (or the scapula bone and the ink pot).”‘ Then he said, “Write: ‘Not equal are those Believers who sit..”, and at that time `Amr bin Um Maktum, the blind man was sitting behind the Prophet (ﷺ) . He said, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is your order For me (as regards the above Verse) as I am a blind man?” So, instead of the above Verse, the following Verse was revealed: ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame etc.) and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah.’ (4.95) Recorded in Bukhari, Bukhari, Nasai, Muslim, Abu Dawud. Details here
One of the his companions by the name of Abdullah ibn Abi Sarh even apostasized because of this.
There is more. The teachings in the Quran are borne out of 7th century norms. For example, in 4:23 it says you can’t marry your foster sister. Not your real sister, but simply another woman who breastfeed from the same breast. Theres the whole thing about the sacred months and not fighting in them. Makes sense maybe in a 7th century tribal world where you want to make sure people can come for hajj. But in the modern world? Add on it superstitions like evil eye and jinns.
In conclusion, Muhammad really didnt know what he was doing. He was making up things as he went along. He would adjust and change rulings as it appealed to him and did not even follow his own rules! This is not the sign of a prophet who spoke to God but a charlatan. Someone who is deceiving others for his own selfish benefit. The few rare incidents that we have where he made a mistake that are preserved are gems for us to see through the whole sham. For another example of how ill thought out Muhammad’s ideas were, check out my video “The Quranic Swearing Game“. I’ll link it below.
Join the team if you’d like to be a part of team Abdullah. Check out The Abdullah Sameer Podcast on your favourite platform. Thank you for reading and stay tuned for more from your friendly neighbourhood exmuslim