During my childhood, I learned of the Prophet Muhammad's life in religious studies classes, and I was acquainted with some of his teachings. Later on during my undergraduate years, while working in Tehran's psychiatric hospitals, I had an eye-opening experience when I met a couple of schizophrenic patients who claimed to be the Messiah.
However, with more experience and more education, I realized that a Schizophrenic patient does not have the ego strength to tolerate without Decompensation the stressors that Muhammad tolerated on his road to
becoming a prophet. I decided then that someday, when I had enough Knowledge and time, I would study Muhammad's personality in depth, To explore the existence of any psychopathology.
In 1995, I took a detour from practicing clinical psychology to Clinical neuropsychology. This detour required additional training, including a two-year postdoctoral study at the New York University's
branch of the Fielding Institute. This course of study provided me with the additional knowledge that I needed regarding the workings of the human brain.
While studying the topic of seizure disorder, I came across a nineteenth-century book called The Blot upon the Brain. In this book, there was a section in which the author discussed the possibility that the Prophet Muhammad suffered from seizure disorder. I began to wonder what sources the author had used to make such claims. As some have a tendency to think that if they discredit Islam they will somehow add to the validity of their own religion, I assumed that the author's hypothesis was based on a religious prejudice.
I did some more research and soon found an article written by Frank Freeman titled "Differential Diagnosis of the Muhammad the Prophet of Islam"
Although the article did not answer my questions, it rewarded me by pointing me in the direction of other early Islamic sources that could be used in my study.
I decided that the time had come to study the original sources of Islam and to educate myself on Muhammad, Islam and the Quran.
As I began to study these sources, I soon learned that the people who lived around Muhammad were aware that they were witnessing history in the making, and they did their best to preserve his teachings. In later years, several authors wrote his biography in detail; these biographies, along with the Quran, make up the foundations of Islamic theology.
Therefore, if I was going to be able to know Muhammad, I had to have access to these ancient books.
Some of the books that I needed were available in English:
(1) The Quran, which is the holy book of Islam.
(2) Sirat Rasul Allah, the most famous of biographies of Mohammad originally written by Ibn Ishaq
(3) Al Sahih by Al-Bukhari (died A.D.892).
A couple of these original sources of Islam were available in my native tongue of Persian:
(4) Al-Tabari's 14 volumes on the history of Islam
(5) Al-Moghazi, by Al Waghedy (died A.D.823).
I was also fortunate to find all nine volumes of Al-Tabaghat Al-cobra by Ibn Saad (died A.D.845), written in Arabic.
While researching the life of Muhammad, I studied seizure disorders and their impact on human religiosity. Once the project was reasonably completed, I presented the topic to the department of neuropsychology of New York University. The response was positive and humbling. Up to that point, my intention had been only to print a research article in a psychology journal. However, my colleagues encouraged me to expand the writings and publish them in a book form.
Sword and Seizure is the final product of this endeavor. While writing this book, I had the opportunity to read many books and articles both for and against Muhammad. The pro-Islam books have a tendency to be too nice, minimizing the problems in Muhammad's life and attribute abilities to him that he never had or claimed to have. Some of these books are so far-fetched that they are totally contradictory to Muhammad's teachings (e.g., Bahar Alanvar by Majlesi). The books written against Islam are mostly insulting and biased, as they disregard Muhammad's extraordinary attributes and concentrate on his deficits (e.g., Muslim Studies by Goldziher and Sketches from Eastern History by Noldeke).
However, a common denominator in both sides is a total disregard of the person of Muhammad-why a small-time merchant would pick up such a tremendous task, and why was he able to do it.
Sword and Seizure
The first chapter of Sword and Seizure describes Muhammad's environment. Fortunately, historians who covered Muhammad's life made an attempt to write about this part of history, which is called Jahiliyah, or "the Time of Ignorance."
Muhammad's childhood is the topic of the second chapter. Most psychologists would probably agree that we can not know a person without knowing his childhood. Although the knowledge about Muhammad's childhood is limited, enough material has been collected to give a reasonable understanding of what occurred during Muhammad's early life.
The third chapter is an attempt to report what is known about the events leading to Muhammad's first encounter with the angel Gabriel and the introduction of prophethood to his life. Taken together, the first three chapters are a necessary introduction to the rest of the book.
Chapter four is probably this most important section of the book, in this part we go through the symptoms of c complex partial seizures and report each symptom based on the descriptions of his friends and wives.
Every symptom, cause and its effect on his behavior has been reported in detail. When necessary the quotations have been reported in English and Arabic together to eliminate any possibility of misinterpretations. While this section regarding Muhammad's condition is my favorite chapter of the book, it was also the most difficult to write. I studied many books to learn of Muhammad's symptoms and reviewed many articles to put the whole premise together. The results were extremely rewarding-as a diagnostician, being able to make the proper diagnosis based on historical facts is extremely rewarding.
We were able to provide a detailed account of Muhammad's: Olfactory hallucinations, gustatory hallucinations, and excessive perspiration, auditory and visual Hallucinations. Obsessions, compulsions and the sense of mission.
The next two chapters are dedicated to the effects of seizure disorder on the process of the rest of his life. We could provide detailed evidence of his new behaviors including brutality as well as hypersexuality. Scores of pages are dedicated to examples of these two changes in him. It is interesting to see how a man who was a virgin up to the age of 25 and was devoted to his first wife up to the age 53, suddenly turns to a sex driven person. When Muhammad was dieing at the age of sixty three he had his head on his favorite wife's lap who was only sixteen years old, and he had been sexually involved with for at least seven years.
One of the chapters of Sword and Seizure is devoted to Muhammad's brutality and how he ordered 600 men to be decapitated in one day. Also there reports of his orders for torture, plunder and taking women and children to captivity and selling to slavery.
Of course Sword and Seizure has more in it, and one should read the book him or herself and make his or her judgment.
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