Examining some Muslim scholars' attempts to defend the credibility of the prophet of Islam
The Bismikaallahuma site has posted an article by Sheikh Ahmad Ibn Abdul-Aziz Al-Qusaier where he deals with Muhammads bewitchment (*). In this article we will examine the arguments set forth by the Sheikh to see if they absolve Muhammad from being a false prophet for falling under the power and control of a magician.
The Sheikh begins:
The Muslim scholars hold three views with regard to this incident:
The first view: The sorcery whom the Prophet (peace be upon him) was exposed to is merely a usual disease and a transient illness, this is possible in regard to the Prophets as is to any human being. It does not disprove prophethood or disturb the message or revelation. God the Exalted protected His Prophet from whatever interferes with the mission of conveying the message and from being killed, not from transient physical diseases.
This is the view of Al-Maziri, Ibn Al-Qayyim, Al-Aini, As-Sindi and Ibn Bazz.
Al-Qadi Ayyad explained it saying:
In regard to what was reported that he used to think that he did a thing while he did not, it does not interfere with his delivery of the Message or the Law nor does it undermine his truthfulness due to the evident proof and consensus of his protection from this. This was merely a worldly matter that has nothing to do with his Mission or rank, and he is exposed to it as any other human being. So, it is not impossible for him to imagine unreal things, then find out what they really are . It is not reported regarding this event anything other than what he said about doing something that he really did not. It was merely imagination.
Sorcery that affected the Prophet (peace be upon him) was a transient disease that Allah cured him from. There is nothing defective about it for all Prophets are exposed to illness as well as fainting; he (peace be upon him) fainted during his illness, fell down when his leg loosened and was bruised. This is affliction by which Prophets increase in rank and degree. Most afflicted people are the Prophets; they were afflicted with killing, hurt, abuse and imprisonment, so it is not new for the Prophet (peace be upon him) to be afflicted with some sorcery from his enemies as he was bruised when someone stoned him and as animal bowels were thrown on him during his prostration and other incidents. There is nothing undermining or disgraceful about it, on the contrary, it indicates their perfection and high rank before God.
The second view: Sorcery merely affected his externals and organs, not his heart, mind or intellect. The meaning of the verse is protection of heart and belief, not protection of the body from worldly accidents.
This is the preference of Al-Qadi Ayyad and Ibn Hajar al-Haythami.
Even though the Shaikh presents these as two views, it is difficult to see a substantial difference. In reality they are saying the same thing. Be that as it may, the assertion that Muhammads bewitchment was nothing more than an illness flies in the face of the hadith literature:
Once the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done. (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 53, Number 400)
Magic was worked on Allah's Apostle so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not (Sufyan said: That is the hardest kind of magic as it has such an effect). Then one day he said, "O Aisha do you know that Allah has instructed me concerning the matter I asked Him about? Two men came to me and one of them sat near my head and the other sat near my feet. The one near my head asked the other, What is wrong with this man? The latter replied he is under the effect of magic. The first one asked, Who has worked magic on him? The other replied, Labid bin Al-Asam, a man from Bani Zuraiq who was an ally of the Jews and was a hypocrite. The first one asked, What material did he use? The other replied, A comb and the hair stuck to it. The first one asked, Where (is that)? The other replied, In a skin of pollen of a male date palm tree kept under a stone in the well of Dharwan." So the Prophet went to that well and took out those things and said, "That was the well which was shown to me (in a dream). Its water looked like the infusion of Henna leaves and its date-palm trees looked like the heads of devils." The Prophet added, "Then that thing was taken out." I said (to the Prophet) "Why do you not treat yourself with Nashra?" He said, "Allah has cured me; I dislike to let evil spread among my people." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 71, Number 660)
It is quite apparent that this bewitchment affected Muhammads mind to the point that he started imagining doing things that he hadnt done. It didnt simply impact his body through illness.
Furthermore, Muhammads bewitchment contradicts Allahs promise that Satan will not be able to have any authority over his servants:
Surely, as regards My servants, YOU HAVE NO AUTHORITY OVER THEM except those who follow you of the deviators. S. 15:42 Shakir
Here, Allah supposedly tells Satan that the latter will only have authority against the deviators, but not over believers. This point regarding Allah protecting all believers, which would especially be the case with prophets, is repeated several times in the Quran:
O you who believe! take care of your souls; he who errs cannot hurt you WHEN YOU ARE ON THE RIGHT WAY; to Allah is your return, of all (of you), so He will inform you of what you did. S. 5:105 Shakir
When thou recitest the Koran, seek refuge in God from the accursed Satan; he has no authority over those who believe and trust in their Lord; his authority is over those who take him for their friend and ascribe associates to God. S. 16:98-100
Save unto every messenger whom He hath chosen, and then He maketh a guard to go before him and a guard behind him That He may know that they have indeed conveyed the messages of their Lord. He surroundeth all their doings, and He keepeth count of all things. S. 72:27-28 Pickthall
Allah also promised that he would protect Muhammad from the people:
O Apostle! deliver what has been revealed to you from your Lord; and if you do it not, then you have not delivered His message, and Allah will protect you from the people; surely Allah will not guide the unbelieving people. S. 5:67 Shakir
The implications of the above citations should be obvious to the reader. Muhammad, if he was pleasing to God and under his protection, could not come under Satans control and be bewitched. Neither a Jew, Christian, pagan etc, would be able to affect Muhammad with magic since Allah promised to protect him. Yet the hadiths say that Muhammad came under Satans authority when a Jew bewitched him!
In order to fully appreciate the implication of all this we will break it down in specific points:
Or we must come to the following conclusion:
Lest we be accused of distorting the implication and meaning of the above passages, we will simply quote the following Muslim writer:
Thus, if seen in the perspective of the Qur'an, there is not even a hint of any information, on the basis of which it could be said that the Prophet was ever under any magical spell. The Qur'an, on the contrary, leads us to believe that because of God's close guard over the Prophet (pbuh), no such harm could have befallen the Prophet (pbuh).
However, there are a few Hadith, which inform us that the last two Surahs of the Qur'an were revealed at a time when the Prophet (pbuh) was under a magical spell. Two of the important points in the information given by these Hadith are:
- The Prophet (pbuh) remained under this magical spell for six months; and
- This spell caused amnesia in many of the day-to-day affairs of the Prophet (pbuh).
It is quite obvious that the information given in these narratives IS NOT ONLY AGAINST THE STATED VERSES OF THE QURAN, BUT ALSO CREATES SERIOUS DOUBTS ABOUT THE INFALLIBILITY OF THE PROPHETS OF GOD. After all, if God and His appointed angels could not (or did not) protect the Prophet (pbuh) against such a magical spell then what exactly is the implication of God's declaration mentioned in Al-Jinn 72: 27 - 28 and His promise mentioned in Al-Maaidah 5: 67? (Was the Prophet (pbuh)ever a Victim of a Magical Spell?; source; bold, capital and underline emphasis ours)
The late biographer Muhammad Husayn Haykal was another one who rejected these narrations because of their implications:
Muhammad returned from Khaybar, and Ja'far and the Muslims returned from Abyssinia. The messengers of Muhammad returned from those lands whither Muhammad had sent them. All of them met again and were reunited in Madinah. Inspiring each of them was the longing to go to Makkah in the following year and to do so in security, with shaven heads or short hair, and to perform their pilgrimage without fear. Muhammad was so pleased to be reunited with Ja'far that he said he could not tell which was the greater: victory over Khaybar or reunion with Ja'far. It was in this period that, according to a certain report, a Jew called Labid charmed Muhammad and put him under a spell. The report is self-contradictory and highly questionable. The claim that Muhammad did anything at any time without consciousness or under a spell is a sheer fabrication and hence devoid of truth. (Haykal, The Life of Muhammad, tran. Isma'il Raji al-Faruqi [American Trust Publications, USA 1976; Malaysian edition by Islamic Book Trust], p. 379; source; bold emphasis ours)
Haykals denial of the historicity of Muhammad's bewitchment shows that even he realized what serious implications this event has on Muhammad's credibility.
A little later Sheikh Ahmad will present the views of the Mu`tazila who essentially concurred with the above two Muslims and also rejected these hadiths on similar grounds.
We do agree, however, with Sheikh Ahmads statement that protection doesnt include preventing prophets from experiencing physical illness or bodily harm. But this isnt the same as prophets having their minds and will coming under the control of the evil one or magic since this would call into question the integrity of the message. Satan is permitted to inflict physical harm and even to whisper suggestions, but he is not allowed to control or possess a prophets mind and will. Moiz Amjad, in trying to reconcile Suras 72:27-28 and 5:61 with Muhammad suffering physical injuries, concurs:
As for the times in which the Prophet (PBUH) got hurt, I do not see these as negative. On the contrary, they may be viewed as positive. This has many reasons. The fact that a person is able to come on the battle field and strike the Prophet (PBUH) so hard and yet not kill him must surely have been utterly displeasing to the Prophet's (PBUH) enemies. They came so close so often and yet remained so far. It also showed the people's great rebellion; that they not only reject a Messenger of God after he made the truth as clear as day light but actually go as far as injuring him and attempting to murder him. They did indeed get what was coming to them. Furthermore, this was an occasion of testing the believers to see how they would react. There were some that lost all hope and began to flee but then there were others that remained firm. What is important to notice here is that none of these injuries did anything to message of God or its safe deliverance.
However, when we talk of the Prophet (PBUH) being cast under spells, I think that this would probably affect the Message. The Hadith that refer to him being under a spell for six months would in my opinion most certainly have affected the Message. So, while the Prophet (PBUH) getting physically harmed does not contradict the cited verses of the Qur'an, the spiritual damage to him (through spells) in my opinion would. (Magical Spell on the Prophet (pbuh); source; bold and underline emphasis ours)
Sheikh Ahmad next presents a view which provides additional damaging evidence discrediting Muhammad, one which actually agrees with what we have been saying all along. All capital and bold emphasis will be ours:
The third view: what was reported - that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed - is unacceptable forgery, it is rather fabricated by disbelievers.
This is the position of Mutazalites.
It is the preference of al-Jassas, the Sunni scholar, he said:
They alleged that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed and sorcery worked upon him such reports are fabricated by atheists to mock inferior people and to lead them to reject miracles of the Prophets and criticize them, and that there is no difference between miracles of Prophets and works of sorcerers and that they are the same. It is indeed strange that some combine belief in Prophets (peace be upon them) and their miracles and belief in works of sorcerers despite His saying, "And the magician thrives not (no matter) where he goes" (Holy Quran 20:69). So they believe the one whom God has belied and told about his forgery and incoherence of his claims.
It is possible that the Jewish woman did this - out of ignorance - thinking that it works upon bodies and targeted the Prophet (peace be upon him). So God informed His Prophet about her secret and exposed her ignorance about what she believed and imagined in order for this to be one of proofs of his prophethood, not that it has hurt and confused him. Not all reporters said that he was confused; it was merely a baseless addition.
Their evidence is that saying that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed, necessitates the following:
1. Degradation and criticism of miracles of Prophets (peace be upon them).
2. Confusion of miracles of Prophets (peace be upon them) with works of sorcerers.
3. AFFIRMATION OF THE DISBELIEVERS CLAIM: "Ye follow none other than a man bewitched" (Holy Quran 25:8). People of Saleh said to him "Thou art only one of those bewitched" (Holy Quran 26:153) and people of Shuaib said the same to him.
4. Prophets are not susceptible to sorcery BECAUSE IT CONTRADICTS GODS PROTECTION AND IMMUNITY OF THEM.
They responded to the hadith of Aisha in which it is mentioned that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was charmed that it is solely reported by Hisham ibn Urwah on authority of his father from Aisha, and that he was confused about it.
We couldnt have said it any better. These Muslims clearly saw the ramification Muhammads bewitchment has on the integrity of the Quran as a whole, and on Muhammads credibility. The Sheikh, however, tries to refute the above arguments:
1.His Saying: "Ye follow none other than a man bewitched" (Holy Quran 25:8) and "Thou art only one of those bewitched" (Holy Quran 26:153) is a reference to the one who is bewitched till he gets lunatic and loses his mind. The charmed one who is not to be followed is the one who has gone so crazy that he cannot realize what he says; that is why they accused him and said "Tutored (by others), a man possessed" (Holy Quran 44:14). As for the one who is bodily affected with some sort of a disease, following him is not prevented. Enemies of Prophets did not accuse them of bodily illness, rather of what prevents their followers from following them: that they were so bewitched that they could not realize what they say, just like lunatics. This is why God, the Exalted, says "See what similes they strike for thee: but they have gone astray, and never can they find a way" (Holy Quran 17:48).
To show how utterly shallow the above response is all one needs to do is simply read the above quotes to see that none of these texts mention being bewitched to the point of becoming a lunatic or losing ones mind. Not one of them say that people accused Muhammad of going crazy as a result of being bewitched, or that by bewitchment they meant that Muhammad had gone mad.
More importantly, some of these very narrations imply that Muhammad didnt know what he was saying since he claimed to be doing things which in fact he did not do:
The Prophet continued for such-and-such period imagining that he has slept (had sexual relations) with his wives, and in fact he did not. One day he said to me, "O Aisha! Allah has instructed me regarding a matter about which I had asked Him. There came to me two men, one of them sat near my feet and the other near my head. The one near my feet, asked the one near my head (pointing at me), What is wrong with this man? The latter replied, He is under the effect of magic. The first one asked, Who had worked magic on him?' The other replied, Lubaid bin Asam. The first one asked, What material (did he use)? The other replied, 'The skin of the pollen of a male date tree with a comb and the hair stuck to it, kept under a stone in the well of Dharwan." Then the Prophet went to that well and said, "This is the same well which was shown to me in the dream. The tops of its date-palm trees look like the heads of the devils, and its water looks like the Henna infusion." Then the Prophet ordered that those things be taken out. I said, "O Allahs Apostle! Wont you disclose (the magic object)?" The Prophet said, "Allah has cured me and I hate to circulate the evil among the people." Aisha added, "(The magician) Lubaid bin Asam was a man from Bani Zuraiq, an ally of the Jews." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 89)
that Allahs Apostle was affected by magic, SO MUCH SO THAT HE USED TO THINK THAT HE HAD DONE SOMETHING WHICH IN FACT HE DID NOT DO, and he invoked his Lord (for a remedy)
Narrated Hisham's father: Aisha said, "Allahs Apostle was bewitched, so he invoked Allah repeatedly requesting Him to cure him from that magic)." Hisham then narrated the above narration. (See Hadith No. 658, Vol. 7) (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 75, Number 400)
For a period of time Muhammad was imagining that he was actually having sexual intercourse with his wives. This obviously shows that Muhammad was deranged for a while and didnt know what he was saying.
Hence, if the above explanation of what bewitchment means is correct then Muhammad did indeed experience lunacy and remained in such a state until Allah supposedly delivered him.
The Sheikh continues:
2. As for their saying that bewitchment of the Prophets contradicts their divine protection, we say that as God protects, saves and keeps them, He also tests them with whatever he likes of disbelievers harm, for them to deserve the highest ranks of nobility and patience, and to be as examples to their followers and nations who are afflicted by people. So, when they see what happened to Prophets, they become patient and accepting, and follow the example of their Prophets.
The only problem with this argument is that it contradicts the explicit statements of both the Holy Bible and the Quran (quoted above) which state that Gods messengers will not come under the control of Satan:
"For there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination against Israel; now it shall be said of Jacob and Israel, What has God wrought!" Numbers 23:23
"The seventy returned with joy, saying, Lord, even the demons are subject to us in your name! And he said to them, I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven. Behold, I have given you authority to tread upon serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing shall hurt you. Nevertheless do not rejoice in this, that the spirits are subject to you; but rejoice that your names are written in heaven." Luke 10:17-20
"I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one." 1 John 2:13-14
"Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are of God; for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit which does not confess Jesus is not of God. This is the spirit of antichrist, of which you heard that it was coming, and now it is in the world already. Little children, you are of God, and have overcome them; for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world, therefore what they say is of the world, and the world listens to them. We are of God. Whoever knows God listens to us, and he who is not of God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." 1 John 4:1-6
"We know that any one born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him. We know that we are of God, and the whole world is in the power of the evil one." 1 John 5:18-19
Thus, God doesnt test his true prophets and messengers by allowing Satan to control their minds and wills, since to do so would raise serious doubts about the integrity of their communication of the Divine message. A person would justifiably call into question whether what the prophet was communicating was really from God or whether Satan was speaking through him or her. The fact that this is what happened to Muhammad proves that he is not a true prophet like those of the Holy Bible.
The author concludes with a defense of the hadith narrations regarding Muhammad being bewitched:
3. As for their saying that the hadith was solely reported by Hesham Ibn Urwah, the answer is that their claim is rejected for Hesham is one of the most trustworthy and knowledgeable reporters, no Imam has ever criticized him to the degree that justifies rejection of his report. Compilers of both Sahihs agreed on authenticity of this hadith and none of Hadith scholars has ever uttered a word against it. The incident is well known to scholars of Tafsir, Sunan and Hadith and to Jurists, these people are most oriented with conditions of Gods Messenger (peace be upon him) than others.
Moreover, the hadith was not solely reported by Hesham; it was also related by Al-Amash from Yazid Ibn Hayyan from Zaid ibn Arqam who said:
"A Jewish man charmed the Prophet (peace be upon him), he complained for some days. Gabriel (peace be upon him) came and said: a Jewish man has charmed you; he made for you a knob in such-and-such well. Gods Messenger (peace be upon him) some people to get it. Once they brought it to him, he got up actively. He (peace be upon him) never mentioned this to the Jewish man, nor expressed it".
There is really nothing left to say except that by arguing for the validity and veracity of these narrations the Sheikh has only managed to prove that since Muhammad did indeed come under the power of magic he therefore could not have been a true prophet of God.
Responses to Bismikaallahuma
Examining Muhammad's Claim to Prophethood
Articles by Sam Shamoun
Answering Islam Home Page