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Strangulating Freedom of Expression: Prophet's Footprint Reaches the West

By       Message Muhammad Hussain       (Page 1 of 2 pages)     Permalink    (# of views)   No comments

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Mr. Tahir Aslam Gora, driven out of Pakistan for his critical-of-Islam writings, wrote in The Hamilton Spectator December 13 that the freedom of expression has deteriorated even in the liberal West from what it was in Mecca during Prophet Muhammad’s time 15 centuries ago.

Referring to the example of hounding of Bangladeshi humanist author Taslima Nasrin by unruly Muslim mob and an Islamic death-fatwa on her head, in Hindu-majority secular India, he wrote:

“Prophet Muhammad exercised his rights of freedom of expression in his full capacity by challenging the prevailing beliefs of the time and calling them mere lies. Despite the opposition to his claims, he had open and huge support from his allies. But today, in a so-called liberal and enlightened world, challenging some Islamic beliefs is not that easy.”

Mr. Gora is absolutely correct in stressing that Muhammad enjoyed a high degree of freedom of expression, but he fails to mention that Muhammad had killed other rights to freedom of expression at the same time.

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Mr. Gora is correct that Muhammad took full freedom in saying whatever he wanted about the religion, custom and forefathers of the Pagan Quraysh of Mecca. Muslim chronicler Baihaki records (in Proof of Prophecy) Muhammad’s disciple Amru ibn al-Aas’s testimony of Quraysh leaders’ discussion about Muhammad one day: “Never have we had to tolerate from anyone what we have had to tolerate from this man. He slanders our fathers, criticizes our religions and divides our people, and blasphemes our gods. Such grievous things have we tolerated from this man…” The Prophet who was nearby and hearing this conversation, he responded, “Men of Quraysh! I will surely repay you for this with interest.”

Islamic historian al-Zuhri adds: “The unbelievers of the Quraysh did not oppose what he [Muhammad] said. If he passed the place where they sat together, they pointed to him and said: “This young man of the tribe of Abd al-Muttalib proclaims a message from heaven!” This they continued to do until Allah began to attack their gods…, and until He proclaimed that their fathers who died in unbelief were lost [to hellfire]. Then they began to hate the Prophet and show their enmity to him.”

In trying to prevent Muhammad’s insults, the Quraysh sat with him in their sacred shrine of Ka’ba in 615 and requested him to desist from reviling and speaking evilly of their Gods. They offered to worship his God for one year, if Muhammad would reciprocate by worshipping theirs for the same period. In rejection, he responded [Q 109:1-6]: “Oh unbelievers, I worship not that which ye worship… To you your religion and to me my religion.”

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In sum, Prophet Muhammad preached his religion in Mecca for 13 years insulting their Gods, customs, and ancestors and never did he receive any physical assaults of serious nature if at all. In 622, seeing no hope of progress of his stagnated mission in Mecca, the Prophet emigrated with all his disciples to Medina where his creed was making brisk progress. 

After his relocation, Muhammad called the treatment of his community by the Quraysh “tumult and oppression,” which was in turned deemed “worse than slaughter.” In revenge, the Islamic deity revealed a series of verses, sanctioning Holy war against the Quraysh [Q 2:190-193], until the religion was Allah’s [Islam] alone. Muslims must slay the idolaters [the Quraysh] wherever found [2:193]. They must fight the infidels even if they did not like it, because Allah only knows what is best for them [Q 2:216]. They must “fight in Allah’s cause, and slay and be slain” [Q 9:111]. 

With Allah’s sanction of Holy wars against the Quraysh, Prophet started sending Muslim horsemen to raid caravans of the Quraysh, starting in the seventh month after his relocation. After three failed attempts by his disciples, the Prophet himself commanded three expeditions, which also went in vain. In the eighth attempt, they achieved success at Nakhla, in which, one Meccan attendant of the caravan was killed; two were taken prisoners; and the fourth escaped. This first successful Jihad raid brought much-needed booty. The prisoners brought more revenue through ransom. The Prophet, being the leader of the bandit, took 1/5 share for booty. 

The following month, the Prophet led another expedition to plunder a rich caravan returning from Syria under the care of Meccan leader Abu Sufian. This led to the famous battle of Badr, in which the Quraysh suffered a heavy defeat. They lost 70 men and another 70 were captured as prisoners, while Muhammad’s party lost only 14 Jihadists. 

A few of the prisoners were cruelly beheaded at Muhammad’s instruction. One of them was the Meccan poet Al-Nadr bin al-Harith, who distrusting Muhammad’s messages, used to say: “By God, Muhammad cannot tell a better story than I, and his talk is only of old fables which he has copied as I have.” Instead of ransoming him like other prisoners, Muhammad ordered his execution. 

This massive bloodbath, rare in Arabia―that too, of their own kinsfolk―caused much revulsion among the people. Abu Afak, an elderly poet of 120 years of age, wrote poetic verses condemning the cruelty of Muhammad. Muhammad ordered the poet’s execution. One of Muhammad disciple slyly entered Afak’s house at night and dispatched him in his sleep [Ibn Ishaq, Oxford, Karachi, p675]. 

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In condemnation of the elderly poet’s death, Asma bte Marwan, a poetess and mother of five, wrote verses denouncing Muhammad’s heinous act. Muhammad ordered her execution, too. His blind disciple named Umayr, belonging to Asma’s tribe, entered her house one night, removed her suckling baby from her bosom and plunged his sword into her breast with such force that it got stuck onto the couch. Prophet thanked Umayr for the job well-done [Ibn Ishaq, p675-6]: “You have helped God and His apostle, O 'Umayr.” The blind assassin for his great service received the honorific, ‘Umayr the Seeing.’ 

Another famous poet to fall pray to Muhammad’s sword was Ka’b ibn Ashraf, a Jew. Hearing about Muhammad’s victory at Badr, he traveled there. Witnessing the ghastly bloodbath, he traveled down to Mecca, and wrote a poem, lamenting over the dead Quraysh and inveighing Muhammad’s unjustified barbarity. Once the news reached Muhammad’s ear, he said [Ibn Ishaq, p367]: “Who would rid me of [Ka’b] Ibnu'l-Ashraf?” Muhammad’s disciples, including Abu Naila and a foster brother of Ka’b, volunteered for the job.

The assassins, with permission from Muhammad, befriended Ka’b by saying bad things about the Prophet. Then on one moonlit night, Abu Naila went to Ka’b house calling him to come out to devise some plan to counter Muhammad. Ka’b’s newly married wife warned him: “By God, I can feel evil in his voice.” Ka'b answered to his wife: “Even if the call were for a stab, a brave man must answer it.” Then he went out with Abu Naila, who enticed him to go walking around while talking about their plan. A pleasant little proposal on a moonlit night as it was, Ka’b came along. Once gotten at the right place, Abu Naila and his four accomplices fell upon the naïve poet with their swords and dagger and butchered him. Al-Tabari records, they brought Ka’b’s head to Muhammad and the Prophet duly thanked them for their service to Allah. 

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Muhammad Hussain is a researcher and freelance writer.

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