The Question of Prophet Muhammad’s motivations often comes to Muslims minds. They claim “How could he have made so much personal sacrifice to gain so little?” I will acknowledge that we will never really know what his motivation was. However we can look at the recorded narrations and try to piece together a narrative to see if it makes sense.
What are the possibilities?
- God Exists, God is Allah, and Allah spoke to Muhammad, and Muhammad spoke the truth
- God Exists but God is not Allah
- Muhammad was hearing things or self-deluded, maybe narcissistic to the point of really believing God was granting his desires
- Muhammad was a liar and made up revelations in order for personal benefit
- A combination of these
- God does not exist.
From the above, we can see that it does not matter if God does not exist or exists, but what matters is Is God Allah. Meaning, the entity known as Allah, that sent revelation to Muhammad, is he real? Did he really send prophets and speak to mankind through angels and revelation? That is the crux of the matter. If God exists, but he is not Allah, he did not send revelation, he is irrelevant to this conversation.
Position 1 – the Islamic position
Allah is real. He sent the Quran to Muhammad. I would say this is false because the Quran is not accurate. That is the argument I make and justify on this blog.
Position 2- God Exists, God is not Allah
This could be described as deism. There is a creator of the universe, but he did not speak to us. Or if he did, he is not “Allah”. Allah is the pagan deity that Muhammad rebranded as the God of monotheism. If this is the case, god is irrelevant because he did not send revelation.
Position 2a- Muhammad was self-deluded
Temporal Lobe Epilepsy
It is possible that Muhammad suffered from temporal lobe epilepsy. This type of sickness causes people to think they are speaking to God. Dr. Mohamed Ghilan, a Muslim academic and upcoming theologian, student of neuroscience states,
“I can give you arguments if you don’t know the background of them, you can explain prophets to be schizophrenic mental illness, where they can function by and large normally ,and there are clinical cases, those who are in neurology know this, you can go to the hospital and see people that speak about God, speak about religion, come up with lengthy treatises that are very profound philosophically… If you don’t know about our prophet, you will be shaken up.” (15:50 in the video Islam Science and Evolution)
It’s interesting that Mohamed Ghilan stated that “they can come up with lengthy treatises that are very profound“. This means that these people are otherwise functioning normally in society. They are not crazy insane people, but otherwise normal people.
Neurologist Dr. Ramachandran also demonstrates this in the following video of a man who thought God was speaking to him after he had this temporal lobe epilepsy
In conclusion Muhammad may have felt he was speaking to God. Or he may have lied. Or it may have been a combination. We may never know.
Renewer of the religion of Abraham
Muhammad may have felt justified to renew monotheism and felt that lying was justified here. There were others who claimed to follow the religion of Ibrahim that lived during the life of Prophet Muhammad or in the same era, such as Zaid bin Amr, who also used to abhor the practices of the arabs – idolatry, killing the infant girls, etc..
Narrated Asma bint Abi Bakr:
I saw Zaid bin Amr bin Nufail standing with his back against the Ka’ba and saying, “O people of Quraish! By Allah, none amongst you is on the religion of Abraham except me.” He used to preserve the lives of little girls: If somebody wanted to kill his daughter he would say to him, “Do not kill her for I will feed her on your behalf.” So he would take her, and when she grew up nicely, he would say to her father, “Now if you want her, I will give her to you, and if you wish, I will feed her on your behalf.”
Narrated Jabir bin `Abdullah:The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “My similitude in comparison with the other prophets is that of a man who has built a house completely and excellently except for a place of one brick. When the people enter the house, they admire its beauty and say: ‘But for the place of this brick (how splendid the house will be)!”
Position – 2b – Muhammad was a liar
What did he gain?
Watch Allah’s Favorite Prophet on YouTube
First of all, respect and power and his name being exalted
He became the undisputed leader of the Muslim community. He was given such respect that was given to no kings before him. His companions would hang on every word of his, threatening to kill anyone that insulted him, and were ready to die for him at a moment’s notice. They would drink the leftover water from his ablutions, collect his sweat in bottles, and one companion by the name of Zubair apparently even drank his blood. He is mentioned by name in the 5 daily prayers of every Muslim in the world, and his words – the Quran are memorized by the entire Muslim community and repeated over and over again.
His companions respected and deified him to the point that nobody else was respected
At the treaty of Al-Hudaibiya in which Urwa came to the Prophet (SAW) to negotiate its terms and when returned to his people and said, “O people! By Allah, I have been to the kings and to Caesar, Khosrau and An-Najashi, yet I have never seen any of them respected by his courtiers as much as Muhammad is respected by his companions. By Allah, if he spat, the spittle would fall in the hand of one of them (i.e. Sahaba) who would rub it on his face and skin; if he ordered them, they would carry out his order immediately; if he performed ablution, they would struggle to take the remaining water; and when they spoke, they would lower their voices and would not look at his face constantly out of respect.”
After he (i.e. Allah’s Apostle) had performed ablution, the remaining water was taken by the people and they started smearing their bodies with it (as a blessed thing).
Narated By Ibn Shihab : Mahmud bin Ar-Rabi’ who was the person on whose face the Prophet had ejected a mouthful of water from his family’s well while he was a boy, and ‘Urwa (on the authority of Al-Miswar and others) who testified each other, said, “Whenever the Prophet , performed ablution, his companions were nearly fighting for the remains of the water.”
He actually commanded them that God ordered them to love him:
“None of you will be a true believer until I am more beloved to you than yourself”. [Bukhari]
And in the Quran he is praised as being of the perfection of character:
The Prophet is more worthy of the believers than themselves, and his wives are [in the position of] their mothers. (33:6)
And indeed, you are of a great moral character. (68:4)
And whenever he had an issue, he had God come to his defense and straighten out the problem. Like when his wives were not happy (despite him being the perfect husband any woman would ever want), God comes and threatens his wife that they will be replaced with better women:
Perhaps his Lord, if he divorced you [all], would substitute for him wives better than you – submitting [to Allah ], believing, devoutly obedient, repentant, worshipping, and traveling – [ones] previously married and virgins. (66:4)
Once Umar was walking with the Prophet ﷺ, and he said
“By Allah, I love you O Prophet of Allah”.
The Prophet ﷺ asked, “More than your children, O Umar?”
Umar (ra) replied “Yes, O Prophet of Allah.”
The Prophet ﷺ asked, “More than your money, O Umar?”
And Umar (ra) replied, “Yes, O Prophet of Allah”
The Prophet ﷺ then asked him, “More than yourself, O Umar?”
Umar (ra) replied, “No, O Prophet of Allah”
The Prophet ﷺ then told him “O Umar, your faith will never be complete until you love me more than yourself.”
We can see that there is a clear motive here. He is receiving massive benefits from being a Prophet of God.
Read more at Muhammad’s Just In Time Revelations
Second of all, sexual benefits:
He was able to use God as a moral justification to do whatever pleased him. For example being unfair to his wife Sauda and giving her night to Aisha instead. Aisha actually said , “I feel that your Lord hastens in fulfilling your wishes and desires.” (Bukhari and Muslim) when this happened. For example marrying more than the 4 women he allowed other men to marry.
For example allowing himself to sleep with their female captives of war and saying God was his justification. Prophet Muhammad himself owned many slaves, 16 male slaves and his female slaves included: Salma, Maymoonah bint Sa’d; Khadrah; Radwa; Razeenah; Umm Dameerah; Maymoonah bint Abi ‘Usayb; Maariyah and Rayhaanah. The story of Rayhaanah:
Umar Ibn al-Hakam narrated: “The Messenger of God freed Rayhana Bint Zaid Ibn`Amr Ibn Khunaqa. She had been married to a loving and honouring husband. She said, ‘I shall never have a husband after him.’ She was beautiful. When Banu Quraiza were taken captive, the booty was shown to the Messenger of God, and she was among the captives that were shown him so he commanded her to be set aside.He used to have a choice from each booty. She herself narrated, ‘When I was set aside, he chose me and sent me to the house of Umm al-Mundsir Bint Qais for some days till he had the captives killed and the spoils distributed.
He was so attracted by her that he traded seven other slaves for her:
Anas said: A beautiful slave-girl fell to Dihyah. The Apostle of Allah purchased her for seven slaves. (Abu Dawud)
Or Juwayriyyah, Aisha saw her that she was beautiful and attractive, and she got worried because she knew Prophet Muhammad would be attracted to her:
Narrated Aisha, Ummul Mu’minin:
Juwayriyyah, daughter of al-Harith ibn al-Mustaliq, fell to the lot of Thabit ibn Qays ibn Shammas, or to her cousin. She entered into an agreement to purchase her freedom. She was a very beautiful woman, most attractive to the eye.
Aisha said: She then came to the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) asking him for the purchase of her freedom. When she was standing at the door, I looked at her with disapproval. I realised that the Apostle of Allah (peace_be_upon_him) would look at her in the same way that I had looked. (Abu Dawud)
Lastly, financial benefits.
EDIT: After some reflection I will admit I am not certain about this motivation. It does not appear to be a focus of his prophetic career.
One fifth of all the war booty would directly go to Prophet Muhammad. To this day Shias pay this to his family, they call it Khums. [ref]Shia article describing Khums as 20% that goes directly to the war booty.[/ref]
The hadith literature paints a man who lived very simple, and gave away most of his wealth. It does not appear that he cared for wealth and riches like the kings of Persia or Rome. Wealth did not seem to be his focus in life.
He did own Fadak which was a large garden oasis that he owned, but there are no reports as to what he did with all that wealth. When he died, his daughter was denied rights to it and it was given to charity because of an apparent hadith quoted by Abu Bakr that prophets do not leave wealth behind.
In conclusion, he received great personal benefits from Islam. We may not be able to ascertain absolutely his intentions, but we can look at the fruit of his work – The Quran, to determine if it was from man or God. And I believe that by looking at the Quran it is crystal clear that it is the work of man and not God. There is not one single thing in the Quran that indicates a divine nature, but that is a topic for another post.