(15-minute read)

Muhammad was born around April 20, 570 A.D, in an Arabian city called Mecca or April 26, according to Shi’ites. His father Abdullah died before he was born, and his mother, Amina, died when he was six years old. After the death of his grandfather Abd al-Muttalib, Muhammad was raised by his uncle Abu Talib, leader of the Banu Hashim clan. We may divide Muhammad’s life into three main periods. Pre-Prophetic Period (570-610 AD). Meccan Prophetic Period (610-622) and the Medinan Prophetic Period (622-632).

▪ Pre-Prophetic Period (570-610 AD).

While still young, Muhammad began work in the Meccan caravan trade, which put him in contact with diverse religious traditions. At 25 years old, he married a wealthy widow, Khadijah, fifteen years his senior. With more leisure time, Muhammad developed the practice of retreating to a cave on Mount Hira for prayer and reflection, as was typical for the polytheists of the Meccan Quraysh tribe. As an adult, Muhammad was, according to his early follower Ali,

“neither excessively tall or extremely short. He was medium height among his friends. His hair was neither curly nor wavy. It was in between His face was not swollen or meaty-compact. It was fairly round. His mouth was white. He had black and large eyes with long haired eyelids. His joints (limbs) and shoulder joints were rather big at walking, he lifted his feet off the ground as if he had been walking in a muddy remainder of water.”[1]

▪ Meccan Prophetic Period (610-622).

You cannot look at the chronicles of the Prophet without looking at how he underwent his revelations. During one of his yearly retreats, Muhammad became persuaded that a demonic spirit had ordered him to recite verses (now found in Qur’an 96:1-5). However, his wife Khadijah and her cousin Waraqah convinced him that he was a prophet of Allah. Muhammad soon began preaching Islam to friends and family members and later to the public. Due to his increasingly provocative condemnation of Mecca’s polytheists’ religious beliefs, Muhammad and his followers were persecuted. After his wife Khadijah and his uncle Abu Talib died, Muhammad decided to flee Mecca. Let’s focus a little bit more on the mechanism of revelation.

According to Aisha, the young woman who much later would become his favorite wife, Muhammad was chosen as a prophet after devoting himself to long prayer periods. One night during the month of Ramadan, he was rapt in prayer when he had a vision:

The commencement of the (Divine) Revelation to Allah’s Messenger was in the form of good righteous (true) dreams which came true like bright daylight. (And then the love of seclusion was bestowed upon him.) He used to go in seclusion (in the cave of) Hira where he used to worship (Allah alone) continuously for many (days and) nights… till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira.[2]

At first, Muhammad could not identify the source of the dreams or “the Truth” that descended upon him. It was not until sometime later that he realized that he was visited by the angel Gabriel, sent from Allah. Ibn Sa’d record a Muslim tradition asserting that an angel named Seraphel initially visited Muhammad and was replaced by Gabriel after three years. He also records the fact that “the learned and those versed in Sirah literature” contradicted this tradition and maintained that only Gabriel ever appeared to Muhammad.[3]

It is hard to see how anyone would have gotten the idea that another angel was involved with Muhammad if he had been confident from the first moment that it was Gabriel. In any case, the angel came to Muhammad and commanded him to read and recite what he read. Muhammad replied, “I do not know how to read.” The spiritual being, however, would brook no objections. He pressed his will upon Muhammad in a terrifying fashion:

(The Prophet added), “The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, ‘I do not know how to read.’ Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and asked me again to read, but again I replied, ‘I do not know how to read (or, what shall I read?).’ Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me and then released me and said, ‘Read! In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). Has created man from a clot. Read! And Your Lord is Most Generous… [unto]… that which he knew not.’ (V. 96:5)”[4]

They would continue off and on for the next twenty-three years—the rest of Muhammad’s life. His followers committed them to memory and wrote them on whatever was available; after his death, they were collected into the Qur’an. In the beginning, Muhammad regarded his spiritual encounter with considerable agitation. It is reported that he;

“suffered much pain and his face turned dustcolored.”[5]

He wondered if he had been demonically possessed, and even contemplated suicide:

I will go to the top of the mountain and throw myself down that I may kill myself and gain rest. So I went forth to do so and then when I was midway on the mountain, I heard a voice from heaven saying: “O Muhammad! Thou art an apostle of God and I am Gabriel.” I raised my head towards heaven to see (who was speaking) and lo, Gabriel in the form of a man with feet astride the horizon, saying, “O Muhammad! Thou art the apostle of God and I am Gabriel.”[6]

Muhammad returned to Khadija in tremendous distress. According to Aisha:

“Then Allah’s Messenger returned with that (the Revelation), and his heart severely beating; (and the) muscles between his neck and shoulders were trembling till he came upon Khadija (his wife) and said, ‘Cover me!’ They covered him, till his fear was over, and after that he said, ‘O Khadija! What is wrong with me? I was afraid that something bad might happen to me.’ Then he told her all that had happened.”[7]

And he repeated to her his initial fears:

“Woe is me poet or possessed.”[8]

He meant “poet” in the sense of one who received ecstatic, and possibly demonic, visions. Khadija appeared to have more confidence in Muhammad than he did in himself.[9] She then went to see Waraqa and told him what Muhammad had told her he had experienced in the cave of Hira. Waraqa exclaimed:

“Holy! Holy! Verily by Him in whose hand is Waraqa’s soul, if thou has spoken to me the truth, O Khadija, there hath come unto him the greatest Namus [that is, Gabriel] who came to Moses aforetime, and lo, he is the Prophet of this people. Bid him’ be of good heart.”[10]

Khadija told Muhammad what Waraqa had said, lessening Muhammad’s anxiety. According to another account, she went with Muhammad to visit Waraqa:

“… who, during the [pre-Islamic] Period of Ignorance became a Christian and used to write the writing with Hebrew letters. He would write from the Gospel in Hebrew as much as Allah wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadija said to Waraqa, “Listen to the story of your nephew, O my cousin!” Waraqa asked, “O my nephew! What have you seen?” Allah’s Apostle described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, “This is the same one who keeps the secrets (angel Gabriel) whom Allah had sent to Moses.”[11]

Soon after Waraqa identified the being who had appeared to Muhammad, the old man died. The Prophet he had effectively anointed was again plunged into a despair so intense that he again contemplated suicide:

“But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Revelation was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, “O Muhammad! You are indeed Allah’s Messenger in truth,” whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home.”[12]

This scenario evidently played out again whenever Muhammad had to wait too long for Gabriel to reappear:

“And whenever the period of the coming of the Revelation used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before.”[13]

The Qur’an and accounts of the Prophet Muhammad (Hadith, Sunnah) Muhammad unified Arabia into a single religious polity under Islam. Muslims and Baha’is believe he is a messenger and prophet of God. There are also traditional Muslim biographies of Muhammad (the sira literature), which provide additional information about Muhammad’s life. Muhammad is almost universally considered by Muslims as the last prophet sent by God to mankind. While non-Muslims regard Muhammad as the founder of Islam, Muslims consider him to have restored the unaltered original monotheistic faith of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Jesus, and other prophets.

▪ Medinan Prophetic Period (622-632).

Having forged alliances with several non-Muslim groups, Muhammad began robbing the Meccan caravans. These attacks finally led to a series of battles with Mecca. As war booty poured in, so did new followers. The growing Muslim army allowed Muhammad to conquer not only Mecca but the rest of Arabia as well. It should be noted that Muslims believe Muhammad is their highest moral example (S.33:21) and the final authority (along with Allah) in all decisions (S.33:36). According to the Qur’an (S.4:65), a person can have no faith without unquestioningly accepting Muhammad’s judgments. In like of the Qur’anic witness, the perfection of Jesus Christ in noted (S.19:19) which leads the Christian to ask why there is then such a veneration of the Prophet considering Christ’s affirmed perfection? Further, when we consider some of the apparent inconsistencies in the Prophet’s character, it is done to find a befitting understanding of what should be deemed acceptable and evil. Any account of the Prophet of Islam should always lead to an impartial examination of the objective standards for morality. What do the reports of the Prophet of Islam reveal?

The Good (His contribution and legacy)

❖ Muhamad was a Man of His time!

No one can study Muhammad’s life without being impressed with his rise from a mere citizen of Mecca to the undisputed role of the leader of the Arabs throughout the Arabian Peninsula. Yet even here, a general historical perspective is insufficient. It is not just a dominant figure that is under consideration, but one who claimed to be the last and greatest of all God’s prophets for all humanity from the beginning to the end of time. He has to be assessed from a religious as well as a historical viewpoint, and it is perhaps relevant to make such an evaluation at this very point before examining his prophetic convictions in more detail. John Gilchrist writes:

“The Muslim world draws an absolute conclusion here without further ado. Muhammad was the greatest of all the prophets, indeed Allah’s universal messenger to all mankind, and an example of human conduct and behaviour without reproach. He was sinless, though not without human failings, but irreproachable in his role as His choice representative on earth. The Christian view, however, has been very different  and has generally perceived him to be, on the one hand, a great leader and reformer who led the Arabs out of pagan darkness, to the other extreme, namely that he was a demon-possessed impostor whose deliberate purpose was to lead the world astray and to darken the minds of millions of men from seeking the light of the Gospel of Christ.”[14]

“There are a number of ways in which Muhammad’s prophetic course can be fairly assessed. He can be appraised purely on the merits of his own character, he can be evaluated in the light of his reputation among his immediate contemporaries and, as a claimant to divine prophethood, he can be compared with Jesus Christ, the founder of the world’s other universal monotheistic faith.”[15]

❖ Muhammad did not deny that he had faults of his own.

Some of these are discussed in the Qur’an, such as the reproach he receives for turning away from a man merely because he was blind (Surah 80:2). He nowhere appears as the kind of pretender one would otherwise expect who would find no fault in himself but be concerned only to project himself as a perfect example. Indeed, a charge of deliberate imposture or falsehood appears to be untenable when his single-minded devotion to his purpose is genuinely appreciated at times in the face of great odds.

❖ He believed quite sincerely that he was called by Allah to turn his people away from pagan distractions to the worship of the one Supreme Being.

In this pursuit, he hardly wavered despite, as has been seen, numerous occasions where he found himself almost alone in his quest and facing severe persecution. The journey to at-Ta’if was perhaps the lowest point in his fortunes yet even here there was no disillusionment or doubting regarding his purpose.

❖ He was no more than a human being, no different to the messengers of Allah who preceded him.

In his own estimation, he was just as prone to passing away at any time as they did (Surah 3:144). His prime concern was that his hearers should follow the way of his Lord (Surah 25:57). Although mocked and rejected as possessed with madness he was to see himself solely as a warner to call his people back to the truth (Surah 7:184).

❖ The simplicity of his life also testifies to his personal sincerity.

In all his years of opposition at Mecca, he lived frugally and continued to do so even when he was enjoying increasing success in Medina with the whole of Arabia gradually coming under his control. To his death, he was still willing to sweep his own bed-chamber, do his own regular chores, and fit in with the general lifestyle of his companions. At no time did he ever project anything like the image or pomp of a king and when he died, he had to be buried in one of the simple chambers of his wives, having no home or quarter of his own.

❖ Even in the religious realm, there is likewise a keen sense of the spirit of a man aware of his place in a greater scheme of things.

Islam did not come as a new thing to supplant all that had preceded it but only as a confirmation of previous revelations. The Muslims were called to follow the faith of Abraham the upright and to respect the contributions of the great prophets of former times (Surah 2:135-136). Muhammad came only to redefine the path of Allah, not to set out a new course with his own personal imprint on it.

John Gilchrist writes;

“Those Christians who seek to degrade the Prophet of Islam and demonise him in every possible way have never seriously tried to evaluate him in the light of his own generation. From any objective point of view he stands out as one of the giants of human history, but in the context of his own era, arising as he did out of the obscure wastelands of Arabia at a time when virtually no attention was given to this part of the world, he has to be acknowledged as a truly remarkable man. No Christian will be able to really understand what motivates the dedicated faith of hundreds of millions of Muslims in the world to this day unless he first discerns the impact that the personality of Muhammad himself had on that early generation of believers. It will be appropriate at this point to see precisely how his contemporary followers saw him in the light of their daily interactions with him in all spheres of life.”[16]

The Bad (His fallible character)

❖ Muhammad Commands His Followers to Kill Critics of Islam

A man named Abu Afak was more than a hundred years old when he decided to write a poem about Muhammad, who was dividing people and causing them to kill one another. Here’s the story of Abu Afak’s death:

Abu Afak was one of the B. Amr b. Auf of the B. Ubayda clan. He showed his disaffection when the apostle killed al-Harith b. Suwayd b. Samit and said: Long have I lived but never have I seen An assembly or collection of people More faithful to their undertaking And their allies when called upon Than the sons of Qayla when they assembled, Men who overthrew mountains and never submitted, A rider who came to them split them in two (saying) “Permitted”, “Forbidden”, of all sorts of things. Had you believed in glory or kingship You would have followed Tubba. The apostle said, “Who will deal with this rascal for me?” Whereupon Salim b. Umayr, brother of B. Amr b. Auf, one of the “weepers”, went forth and killed him.[17]

Hence, Muhammad’s followers understood that people who criticize Islam or Muhammad must be killed. Soon, Muslims were free to kill anyone who made fun of Muhammad:

Narrated Abdullah Ibn Abbas: A blind man had a slave-mother who used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. He forbade her but she did not stop. He rebuked her but she did not give up her habit. One night she began to slander the Prophet and abuse him. So he took a dagger, placed it on her belly, pressed it, and killed her. A child who came between her legs was smeared with the blood that was there. When the morning came, the Prophet was informed about it. He assembled the people and said: I adjure by Allah the man who has done this action and I adjure him by my right to him that he should stand up. Jumping over the necks of the people and trembling the man stood up. He sat before the Prophet and said: Apostle of Allah! I am her master; she used to abuse you and disparage you. I forbade her, but she did not stop, and I rebuked her, but she did not abandon her habit. I have two sons like pearls from her, and she was my companion. Last night she began to abuse and disparage you. So I took a dagger, put it on her belly and pressed it till I killed her. Thereupon the Prophet said: Oh, be witness, no retaliation is payable for her blood.[18]

Narrated Ali ibn Abu Talib: A Jewess used to abuse the Prophet and disparage him. A man strangled her till she died. The Apostle of Allah declared that no recompense was payable for her blood.[19]

❖ The Prophet once ordered his followers to torture a man for money.

Here’s the passage:

Kinana b. al-Rabi, who had the custody of the treasure of Banu al-Nadir, was brought to the apostle who asked him about it. He denied that he knew where it was. A Jew came to the apostle and said that he had seen Kinana going round a certain ruin every morning early. When the apostle said to Kinana, “Do you know that if we find you have it I shall kill you?” he said Yes. The apostle gave orders that the ruin was to be excavated and some of the treasure was found. When he asked him about the rest he refused to produce it, so the apostle gave orders to al-Zubayr b. al-Awwam, “Torture him until you extract what he has,” so he kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest  until he was nearly dead. Then the apostle delivered him to Muhammad b. Maslama and he struck off his head, in revenge for his brother Mahmud.[20]

❖ The Prophet Vito’s assassination.

The first of these was one Ka`b ibn Ashraf, a Jew who was resident in Medina and who had long been a nuisance to the Prophet in composing satirical verses against him. What followed is narrated in many of the early traditions.

Narrated Jabir: The Prophet said, “Who is ready to kill Ka`b ibn Ashraf?”. Muhammad bin Maslama replied, “Do you like me to kill him?” The Prophet replied in the affirmative. Muhammad bin Maslama said, “Then allow me to say what I like”. The Prophet replied, “I do”.[21]

It is clear from this narrative that Muhammad not only sanctioned the murder of his opponent but also permitted his followers to use whatever deception they considered necessary to achieve their purpose. It cannot be denied that this was a direct order to one of his followers to murder one of his opponents and to use any manner of lies to achieve his purpose.

When Ka`b was lured into talking freely with them and was “pleased with them and became intimate with them” (op.cit., p.37), they came closer to him on the pretext that they wished to smell his perfume. Drawing near to him, they suddenly drew their swords and thrust him through and, having killed him, they immediately returned to Muhammad uttering the takbir (“Allahu Akbar” – Allah is Most Great).

Muhammad’s reception of them is recorded in this narrative:

When they reached the Apostle of Allah, Allah bless him; he said (Your) faces be lucky. They said: Yours too, O Apostle of Allah! They cast his head before him. He (the Prophet) praised Allah on his being slain. When it was morning, he said: Kill every Jew whom you come across. The Jews were frightened, so none of them came out, nor did they speak. They were afraid that they would be suddenly attacked as Ibn Ashraf was attacked in the night.[22]

In seventh-century Arabia, polygamy was regarded as perfectly acceptable and caravan raiding was often looked on as a natural pursuit. The wise man did not question the morality of such activity, he simply sought to defend himself and protect his property as best he could and with the assistance of his tribe or clan. Muhammad passed no judgments on either of these two facets of Arabian life and it has often been suggested that it is improper to critically evaluate him against the background of standards in the traditional Christian world.

The Prophet Evaluated.

Muhammad cannot be allowed to escape such analysis. He openly projected himself as a  universal messenger to the whole of mankind (kaaffatan-linnaasi) to give them glad tidings and warnings (Surah 34:28), the Qur’an states that Allah himself and all the angels of heaven send down blessings upon him (Surah 33:56), he is described as a mercy to all the worlds (rahmatan-lil’aalamiin) sent by Allah himself, and the seal of all the prophets (khaatamannabiyyiin) and the Apostle of Allah (Surah 33:40).

✓ These are all claims to universal leadership and example and, in making them, he must be judged by absolute standards. A fundamental tenet of Christian faith that Jesus Christ was not only the greatest man who ever lived but a perfect man with a human character par excellence. He was sinless, faultless in his conduct, with all the virtues of his personality consistent with divine standards of absolute perfection. Muhammad invites comparison with him when he claims that he is his equal as appears from the following record:

“Abu Huraira reported Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) as saying: I am most akin to Jesus Christ among the whole of mankind, and all the prophets are of different mothers but belong to one religion and no Prophet was raised between me and Jesus.”[23]

✓ When Muhammad not only claims match Jesus Christ but even to displace him at some points, he again invites history to judge him by the most precise standards.

Jesus Versus Muhammad

Is the Prophet of Islam to be judged (and acquitted) purely by the standards of his own time or, having boldly claimed to be the greatest of all divinely commissioned men throughout all human history, is he to be assessed by the absolute standards set forth by the human figure of Jesus Christ who preceded him? It does appear that Muhammad’s designs on his enemies can only be justified by relative standards and that he cannot escape the censure of Christian morality.

When Muhammad discovered that neither the Jews nor the Christians were going to respond to his claims, he became very angry with them and the Qur’an declares Qaatalahumullaah meaning “Allah curse them!”.[24] Jesus was also confronted often with people who would not receive him yet, when his disciples wanted to call down fire from heaven to consume a group of Samaritans who had refused to receive him, he replied:

“You do not know what manner of spirit you are of, for the Son of man came not to destroy men’s lives but to save them”.[25]

Jesus taught that love for one’s fellow man was to be so impartial that it was to extend even to one’s foes:

“Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you”[26]

Indeed, when Jesus chose to show just what true love is in a parable just after this, he chose a Samaritan as the hero of the story (Luke 10:33). Most importantly Jesus himself put his own teaching into practice and, when he was finally unjustly crucified by his staunchest foes, instead of seeking to condemn them, he prayed;

“Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do”[27]

For all his greatness Muhammad’s character is very seriously compromised by the stories in the earliest works of Islamic tradition which disclose, in simple narrative form, how he deviously sanctioned the slaughter of his enemies, especially those who did him no other harm than to irk him with their poetic satires. Many of the prophets of Old Testament times can be shown to have acted just as callously at times but this does not exonerate Muhammad. Between those prophets and his era stands new dawn in human history when the man Jesus Christ projected a perfect human character and fulfilled God’s revealed purposes for mankind once and for all.

The Ugly (Lived Society “Ummah”).

A text of the Qur’an is taken as the basis of this express purpose to follow him in every aspect of his character and life:

“You have indeed in the Apostle of Allah a beautiful pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and who engages much in the praise of Allah.”[28]

The verse addresses the Prophet as “uswatun hasanatun”, “a beautiful example”, and anyone who does not follow his pattern is regarded as not truly belonging to him. In the early centuries of Islam, numerous attempts were made to discover the historical Muhammad from the surfeit of myths and traditions that had been handed down through the years, and gradually an agreement was reached as to his life and behavior.

This covered many aspects of his conduct, in particular, his actions (fi`l), his words (qaul), and his tacit approval of certain deeds (taqrir). Each of these was considered to have a binding authority over the lives of true Muslims and his sunnah was regarded as second only to the Qur’an in importance.

This led to a deep veneration of the Prophet in popular Islam and he often appears as a kind of paternal figure who had perfect wisdom and whose guidance could be depended on without reserve. It was believed that the key to all happiness was to follow his example and to imitate him in every aspect of his being, even down to fine points like using an olive twig (miswaak) to clean the teeth just as he had done. Islamic tradition knows no limits in projecting him as a perfect example for all mankind. His spiritual qualities are regarded as the finest ever known in human history.

Muhammad as Intercessor (Shafa’at).

The Qur’an in principle denies that there is any intercession with Allah save that which he

alone gives:

“You have no one besides Him to protect or intercede: Will you not then receive admonition?”[29]

It was the conviction of the pagan Quraysh that their idols would intercede for them that made Muhammad speak so emphatically against this concept (Surah 10:3). Nonetheless, there are a few passages such as this one which seems to indicate that Allah can allow someone to intercede with him in certain circumstances:

“His are all things in the heavens and on earth. Who is there that can intercede in His presence unless He allows it?”[30]

It was the exception at the end of this verse that opened up the belief that Muhammad himself could become an intercessor with Allah on behalf of his own community, his ummah. In another verse even more, support was found for the view that Muhammad, and he alone, had the right to mediate with Allah:

“And those whom they call on besides Allah have no power of intercession, except him who bears witness to the truth, as they are aware.”[31]

To the Muslim commentators of the Qur’an, it was obvious that it was Muhammad himself who alone could be the witness to the truth of whom this passage spoke and in consequence, a doctrine of intercession became established in Islam. The Qur’anic word for this power is ‘shafa`at’ and the Prophet accordingly, among his many titles, is also called Shafi`. It also seemed evident that this intercession could only be on behalf of his own people and traditional Islam has always taught that, although such intervention could be for the upright and reprobate alike, they would have to be Muslims for no other people could expect to be favored by a prophet whom they had not acknowledged. His authority to intercede is well established in the traditional literature:

“Abu Musa reported the Apostle of Allah (may peace be upon him) as saying: Make intercession to me, you will be rewarded, for Allah decrees what He wishes by the tongue of His Prophet.” [32]

“Anas b. Malik reported the Prophet (peace be upon him) as saying: My intercession will be for my people who have committed major sins.”[33]

A common theme in Islamic poetry is the sublime hope of a vision on the Day of Resurrection when the Prophet will appear with a green banner with which to cover his people and assure them of his intervention on their behalf with Allah. Going before them with this green banner of praise they can confidently enter the gates of Paradise knowing that they are fully protected by his presence. Nonetheless, there is another source of intercession other than the Prophet’s direct appeal that Muslims believe will avail them. It is a small amulet or charm known as the “Seal of Prophethood” which contains praise to God in various ways including salutations such as “Ya Allah (O Allah!), Ya Rahman (O Compassionate!), Ya Subhan (O Praised One!) and Ya Sultan (O Ruler!).” It is commonly believed that, if this amulet is placed in the shroud or grave of a deceased Muslim, he will never experience the pain of the grave and that Allah will forgive all his sins and fill his grave with light.

To ensure Muhammad’s intercession, a faithful Muslim must implore Allah’s blessings upon the Prophet. The Qur’an states that Allah and His angels send their blessings on him, and Muslims will never mention his name without some salutation of peace and will, through many prescribed prayers, invoke their request for the favor of Allah upon him. “Bless our master Muhammad and grant him mediation and merit and high rank and that praiseworthy station which you have promised him” is a specific prayer of this kind. While the usual word for intercession is ‘shafa’at’, there is another word in the Qur’an which is used in a similar context, namely ‘wasila’.

It appears only twice in the book (S.5:34, 17:57), and its meaning is to gain access to Allah or obtain a special favor with him. In Islamic tradition, this word often appears as a comparable means of obtaining intercession with Allah. In this case, it seems to mean the right to a position of honor near Allah’s throne rather than a granting of pardon or a mystical union with him. The nearer a Muslim’s place to Allah, the more likely it is that he will obtain a good recommendation.

In all this, Muhammad becomes central to the hopes, desires, convictions, and yearnings of the average Muslim. Over the many centuries of Islam, his image has taken on messianic proportions and, while all Muslims will boldly state that they worship Allah alone and that their Prophet was only a faithful messenger, it is evident that his status in the world of Islam is such as to place him almost as an essential mediator between Allah and his people.


In this article, I tried to familiarise a general audience with some key ideas surrounding Islam’s Prophet. This article aims to show some perceptions surrounding the Prophet’s character as revealed by both his critics and devotees. Hopefully, this will afford more conversations necessary surrounding the Prophets life and legacy that should be objectively evaluated in light of his own and other claims.


[1] The Sealed Nectar, 493.

[2] Bukhari, vol. 9, book 91, no. 6982.

[3] Ibn Sa’d, vol. I, 220.

[4] Bukhari, vol. 9, book 91, no. 6982.

[5] Ibn Sa’d, vol. I, 227

[6] Ibn Ishaq, 106.

[7] Bukhari, vol. 6, book 65, no. 4953

[8] Ibn Ishaq, 106.

[9] Bukhari, vol. 9, book 91, no. 6982.

[10] Ibn Ishaq, 107.

[11] Bukhari, vol. 1, book 1, no. 3.

[12] https://sunnah.com/bukhari/91/1

[13] Bukhari, vol. 9, book 91, no. 6982.

[14] Muhammad: The Prophet of Islam. Pg.56.

[15] Ibid, Pg.56-57.

[16] Ibid, Pg.58.

[17] Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 675

[18] Sunan Abu Dawud 4348

[19] Sunan Abu Dawud 4349

[20] Ibn Ishaq, Sirat Rasul Allah, p. 515.

[21] Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol.4, p.168

[22] Ibn Sa`d, Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir, Vol.2, p.37.

[23] Sahih Muslim, Vol.4, p.1260

[24] Surah 9:30

[25] Luke 9:55

[26]  Luke 6:27-28

[27] Luke 23:34

[28] Surah 33:21

[29] Surah 32:4.

[30] Surah 2:255

[31] Surah 43:86

[32] Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol.3, p.1421

[33] Sunan Abu Dawud, Vol.3, p.1326