Muhammad and Poetry Revisited Again

Sam Shamoun

Bassam Zawadi has made another attempt of responding (*) to my rebuttal regarding Muhammad’s inconsistent stance on poetry.

He responds to my accusation of Muslims like him using a double standard when it comes to citing their own Muslim sources with:

My Response:

Well if everything was common knowledge then Ibn Ishaq might as well not have bothered to cite an isnad for anything he has written. How can we be so sure about something if we cannot trace it back to the source? Us Muslims are strict regarding evidence and facts unlike Christians who don't even fully know who the authors of their Biblical books are. ( 


Let’s expose the gross errors in this one paragraph. First, Zawadi assumes that just because a source provides a chain of transmitters this means that Muslims are able to trace it back. The circular nature of this argument should be clear to the readers. But since it isn’t clear to Zawadi we need to spell it out for him. Most of the documents which provide an isnad are written centuries after Muhammad’s death:

Muhammad Ibn Isma`il al-Bukhari- 194-256 AH/809-869 AD.

Muslim Ibn al-`Hajjaj Ibn Wird Ibn Kushadh al-Qushairi- 204-261 AH/819-874 AD.

Abu Dawud Sulaiman Ibn al-Ash`ath as-Sujustani- 202-275 AH/817-888 AD.

Muhammad Ibn `Isa at-Tirmidhi- 210-279 AH/825-892 AD.

Ahmad Ibn Shu`aib an-Nasai- 215-303 AH/830-915 AD.

Abu Abdullah Muhammad Ibn Yazid Ibn Majah- 209-273 AH/824-886 AD.

Malik Ibn Anas- 93-179 AH/711-795 AD.

Ahmad Ibn `Hanbal- 164-241 AH/780-855 AD.

Another Islamic source provides the following dates:

Collection during the 3rd Century H.: The Hadith was collected and categorized in the latter part of the third century of Hijrah resulting in six canonical collections (Al-Sihaah Al-Sittah)

  1. Sahih of Al-Bukhari, d.256 A.H. [870 A.D.]: 7275 (2712 Non-duplicated) out of 600,000.
  2. Sahih of Muslim, d.261 A.H. [875 A.D.]: 9200 (4,000 Non-duplicated) out of 300,000.
  3. Sunan of Abu Dawood, d.276 A.H. [889 A.D.] 4,800 of 500,000.
  4. Sunan of Ibn Maajeh: d.273 A.H. [886 A.D.]
  5. Jami' of Tirmidhi, d.279 A.H. [892 A.D.]
  6. Sunan of al-Nisaa'i, d.303 A.H. [915 A.H.]. (Source; dates within brackets ours )

What Zawadi would want his readers to believe is that just because these sources provide a chain this makes them more reliable than Ishaq’s chainless narrations. But the only way he knows that the chains provided in these documents are sound is by first assuming that these later writings are reliable, or reliable enough to provide an accurate transmission. And yet the only way he knows whether any of these later narrations are reliable is because of the soundness of their chains which are part of these very same reports!

In other words, Zawadi assumes that these narrations are correct because of the soundness of their chains, and yet he only knows about these chains because they happen to be found in collections that he deems authentic! Note just how circular this truly is:

  1. Zawadi assumes the veracity of a specific narration because of its chain.
  2. Zawadi accepts the soundness of a chain because of the narration which contains it.
  3. This therefore means that he is simply proving the hadith by its chain and then proving its chain by this very same hadith. A masterful display of circular reasoning!

There is simply no possible way for someone writing two hundred years after the fact to completely insure that all the names of the chain going back two hundred years prior are correct, or that such men were completely honest. The only way to have such certainty is to consult earlier documents that were compiled closer in time with the events in question and see if they mention such narrations. More importantly, consulting such early sources will help verify whether some of the specific persons from that early period that are mentioned in these later lists did indeed transmit such stories. But this is something which Zawadi can’t do since he has basically called into question one of the earliest written sources on Muhammad’s life, the Sirah of Ibn Ishaq. If Ishaq who was writing closer in time to Muhammad is questionable then what makes us assume that the documents written long after Muhammad’s time is any more reliable?

Indeed, Muslims are unlike Christians since the latter have sound reasons and arguments for why they believe in the veracity of the Gospels and the New Testament:

Muslims such as Zawadi, on the other hand, are calling into question their own sources which were written much closer to the time of Muhammad and yet deem references that are centuries removed from the events they report as being more reliable!

Moreover, I didn’t say that "everything" was common knowledge to Ibn Ishaq. I simply said that one could account for those places where Ishaq didn’t provide a chain by the fact that since he was writing at such an early period or that those specific anecdotes were so well known that he might have felt that there was no need to provide a chain. So this is nothing more than a straw man argument from Zawadi.

Let’s now see how well Zawadi did in answering my challenges:

My Response:

First of all Sam Shamoun forgets that among the Muslims lived hypocrites who would act as Muslims and therefore have a purpose to lie. Even God in the glorious Quran warns the Prophet about there being hypocrites during his lifetime (5:61;9:61-9:70;9:73-100). So if there were hypocrites during the time of the Prophet, it is most likely that they were also present after the death of the Prophet.


Zawadi doesn’t seem to realize how this response calls into question the entire body of Islamic literature. If Muslim hypocrites were able to successfully introduce material into the Islamic corpus then Zawadi has no way of knowing how much of the Islamic literature can be trusted. He has no certain way of knowing how much of the data has been affected by such material from so-called hypocrites. After all, if those who were closest to the time of Muhammad couldn’t successfully keep out data concocted by the hypocrites then how could later generations be able to do so? How could individuals who were further removed from the events be more successful in sifting out corrupted narrations when earlier generations couldn’t? So this is no response at all, and Zawadi has only managed to further discredit his religion.

Secondly, authors such as Ibn Ishaq and others would take their source of information from certain Jews. Some of these traditions are known as the Israeiliyat. (Allama Shibli Nu'Mani, Sirat-Un-Nabi, volume II, p 173) So scholars who don't have a chain of narration would most likely take their information from them. Muslim scholars would record them but they did not go around fooling people telling them it was authentic. They knew that Muslims would read his book and see that the story does not have a chain of narration and therefore cannot be confirmed. Now just because the story does not have a narration that does not mean it is automatically considered false, however it is also not automatically considered true. Therefore, until something is proven to be true, it cannot be used as evidence to charge some one with a crime.


Note the logic of Zawadi’s argumentation. Even though Muslims wouldn’t fool people by authenticating sources which came from the Jews, they would however still include them in their writings without ever cautioning their readers about their veracity! Even if we assume that this was the case then why did later Muslims omit material that they felt incriminated Muhammad’s character? Why didn’t they simply include them as well, much like Ibn Ishaq did with his stories which supposedly came from the Jews? After all, wouldn’t the people have seen that such stories were weak? The very fact that later sources omitted them soundly refutes Zawadi’s logic since these Muslims realized that people would not have necessarily assumed that they were weak narrations (this is assuming for argument’s sake that these stories were in fact unreliable).

Second, Ibn Ishaq often provides a hint when he deems a certain anecdote as spurious. The translator of his work into English, Alfred Guillaume states:

The opinions of Muslim critics on I.I.'s trustworthiness deserve a special paragraph; but here something may be said of the author's caution and fairness. A word that very frequently precedes a statement is za’ama or za’amu, ‘he (they) alleged’. It carries with it more than a hint that the statement may not be true, though on the other hand it may be sound. Thus there are fourteen or more occurrences of the caveat from p. 87 to 148 alone, besides a frequent note that only God knows whether a particular statement is true or not. Another indication of reserve if not skepticism underlies the expression fi ma dhukira li, as in the story of the jinn who listened to Muhammad as he prayed; Muhammad's order to ‘Umar to kill Suwayd; one of Gabriel's visits to Muhammad; the reward of two martyrs to the man killed by a woman. An expression of similar import is fi ma balaghani.

VERY SELDOM DOES I.I. MAKE ANY COMMENT OF HIS OWN ON THE TRADITIONS HE RECORDS APART FROM THE MENTAL RESERVATION IMPLIED IN THESE TERMS. Therefore when he does express an opinion it is the more significant ... (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. xix; bold and capital emphasis ours)

Unfortunately for Zawadi, Ibn Ishaq provided no such clues when he narrated these specific reports that we quoted regarding Muhammad’s brutality. This presupposes that he himself deemed such stories to be authentic.

Third, how does Zawadi know that these stories of Muhammad killing Abu Afak and others are from the Isra’iliyat sources when Ibn Ishaq never expressly stated that this is where he got his information? On what grounds does he believe that if an isnad isn’t provided then this makes it all the more likely that they came from the Jews? Does this imply that any time an isnad is given it therefore means this narration couldn’t have come from such sources?

Fourth, Zawadi is erroneously assuming that if such tales did come from Jewish sources this automatically means that they are questionable. But why should that be the case? Why shouldn’t we assume the exact opposite, that the Jews would be able to more accurately recount the atrocities committed against them by Muhammad than would Muslims? It is like saying that stories from the Jews regarding the atrocities they experienced during the holocaust should not be trusted. After all, this is nothing more than Isra’iliyat propaganda!

Fifth, what will Zawadi do with the fact that the Quran itself contains Isra’iliyyat or Jewish sources and fables? See the following links for the documentation:

Will he admit on this basis that the Jews corrupted parts of the Quran, or assume that these reports are reliable even though they originate from Jewish source material? He will obviously choose the latter, which means that just because something may come from Jewish or even Christian literature doesn’t mean that it isn’t reliable.

More importantly, there are other sources which confirm these stories as genuine events. For example, Zawadi in one of his recent rebuttals (*) cites a Muslim scholar named Qadi 'Iyad. What makes this interesting is that this Qadi referred to some of these very events to establish that anyone who satirizes or mocks Muhammad must be killed! Note the examples he presented:

In a sound hadith the Prophet commanded that Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf be killed. He asked, "Who will deal with Ka'b ibn al-Ashraf? He has harmed Allah and His Messenger." He sent someone to assassinate him without calling him to Islam, in distinction to other idol-worshippers. The cause of that lay in his causing harm to the Prophet. That indicates that the Prophet had him killed for something other than idol-worship. It was for causing him harm. Abu Rafi', who used to harm the Messenger of Allah and work against him, was also killed.

Similarly on the Day of the Conquest, he ordered the killing of Ibn Khatal and his two slavegirls who used to sing his curses on the Prophet.

In another hadith about a man who used to curse the Prophet, the Prophet said, "Who will save me from my enemy?" Khalid said, "I will," so the Prophet sent him out and he killed him.

'Abdu'r-Razzaq mentioned that a man cursed the Prophet, causing the Prophet to say, "Who will save me from my enemy?" Az-Zubayr said, "I will." He sent az-Zubayr and he killed him.

It is related that a woman used to curse the Prophet and he said, "Who will save me from my enemy?" Khalid ibn al-Walid went out and killed her.

It is related that a man forged lies against the Prophet and he sent 'Ali and az-Zubayr to kill him.

Ibn Qani' related that a man came to the Prophet and said, "Messenger of Allah, I heard my father say something ugly about you, so I killed him," and that did not distress him.

Ibn 'Abbas said that a woman from Khatma satirised the Prophet and the Prophet said, "Who will deal with her for me?" A man from her people said, "I will, Messenger of Allah." The man got up and went and killed her. He told the Prophet who said, "Two goats will not lock horns over me." (Muhammad Messenger of Allah (Ash-Shifa of Qadi 'Iyad), Qadi 'Iyad Musa al-Yahsubi, translated by Aisha Abdarrahman Bewley [Madinah Press, Inverness, Scotland, U.K. 1991; third reprint, paperback], pp. 378-379; cf. online edition)

The translator has a note identifying the woman from Khatma:

2. A tribe allied to the Aws. She was 'Usma' bint Marwan. (Ibid., p. 378; online edition)

Moreover, Ibn Hisham, one of the oldest editors of Ibn Ishaq's Sira, is known to have omitted material he deemed negative or inauthentic from Ibn Ishaq's work. Yet he retained the stories of Abu Afak and Asma bint Marwan being murdered:

After Abu Afak was murdered, Asma wrote a poem blaming Islam and its followers of killing their opponents.

When Muhammad heard what she had said he said, "Who will rid me of Marwan's daughter?" Umayr b. Adiy al-Khatmi who was with him heard him, and that very night he went to her house and killed her. In the morning he came to the apostle and told him what he had done and he [Muhammad] said, "You have helped God and His apostle, O Umayr!" When he asked if he would have to bear any evil consequences the apostle said, "Two goats won't butt their heads about her", so Umayr went back to his people. Now there was a great commotion among B. Khatma that day about the affair of bint Marwan. She had five sons, and when Umayr went to them from the apostle he said, "I have killed bint Marwan, O sons of Khatma. Withstand me if you can; don't keep me waiting." That was the first day Islam became powerful among B. Khatma.

The day after bint Marwan was killed the men of B. Khatma became Muslims because they saw the power of Islam.

Umayr was the first one to convert amongst the men of Khatma, he was called "the reciter" and Abdallah ben Aws and Khazima bin Thabit. (Hisham, Al-Sira al-Nabawiyya, p. 306; online source)

This pretty much puts to rest Zawadi's claim that these events are unreliable according to Muslim standards.

Finally, Zawadi's comments would only discredit Islam further since they imply that not only were Muslim hypocrites able to corrupt Islamic sources, but even the Jews managed to tamper with Muslim literature! Amazing how Zawadi thinks that his responses are actually helping to defend Islam’s veracity.

Even Muslims use the Bible as a reference for certain things that we have no information about. However, we are not sure and cannot confirm whether it is true or not. We do not disbelieve in any part of the Bible that does not contradict any teachings of Islam nor do we believe in it automatically because we are not sure of its authenticity. However, we just use it as reference and not for religious matters. For example, we know that Jesus was thirty when he began to preach. We know this from the Bible. So we use the Bible as a reference. We do not care when Jesus started his ministry so if the information is wrong or not it does not matter.


The problem with Zawadi’s view of the Holy Bible is that it does not represent the Quranic view of the previous Scriptures. The Quran affirms and claims to be in complete agreement with the Holy Bible, since this is the very document in the hands of the Jews and Christians which their prophets passed on to them. For more on this issue please consult the following articles:

Thus, Zawadi may not care when Jesus began his career, but the Quran sure does!

So sometimes these scholars would just include information but however not necessarily claim that it is authentic. Even if you read books about the life of the Prophet Muhammad such as those by Muhammad Al Ghazzali you would even see that sometimes he includes a story and then has a foot note indicating that the story is from a weak hadith. 

So Shamoun cannot take everything that Ibn Ishaq says, especially the parts which have no isnad as 100% true. If they are doubtful he cannot use them as evidence. If he insists then he would be guilty committing a logical fallacy known as 'appeal to authority'. (


Let’s again correct some more of Zawadi’s errors, shall we? First, I do not accept everything that Ibn Ishaq says, nor does it affect my argument whether I do or not. After all, Christians do not reject Muhammad solely on the basis of his atrocities, or on what some Muslim writer has written, but on the grounds that he contradicts the revelation and message of God’s real prophets as recorded in the Holy Bible. But my argument does affect the Muslims since it challenges their view of Muhammad and his credibility by citing their own sources.

The fact of the matter is that here we have the oldest extant Muslim biography which contains material showing how evil and treacherous Muhammad truly was, which should impact any morally upright person, whether Jew, Christian, agnostic, Muslim etc.

Second, Zawadi thinks that these narrations are inauthentic but still has failed to provide any reason why a Muslim would include such information which makes his prophet look so evil. If these events didn’t happen and were forgeries created by the enemies of Islam then why did people such as Ibn Ishaq include them? Why didn’t he simply omit such details especially when they made his prophet look so bad? The fact that such anecdotes were included argues quite strongly for their veracity, since Muslims normally would omit negative references to their prophet. They wouldn’t retain them.

In fact, one of the arguments that Muslims employ to demonstrate the veracity of the Quran is to point to references where Muhammad is rebuked for some mistakes or sins he committed (cf. S. 9:43; 40:55; 47:19; 8:1-2; 80:1-10). Muslims claim that these examples prove that Muhammad couldn’t have authored the Quran since he wouldn’t rebuke himself if he had. But this same logic applies to these Islamic narrations that present Muhammad as a cold-blooded murderer.

Zawadi tries to defend the hadiths and Muhammad’s blatant disregard of the Quran’s condemnation of poetry with:

My Response:

Shamoun forgets that Prophet Muhammad is the one who explains the Quran (16:44). When we see that the Prophet does something, we apply it to the Quran. If we see that the Prophet does not condemn all poetry then we know that the verse in the Quran is not condemning all poetry. This just shows Sam's ignorance regarding how Muslims make Tafsir of the Quran. Tafsir could be done in different ways and one way is that the Prophet does it either by his actions or sayings. For example, it says in the Quran that travelers should shorten their prayers. It does not indicate how short we make them. When we read the hadith we see that the Prophet shortened his noon prayer from 4 rakah to two rakah. So then when we look at the Quran now and we know by how much to shorten the prayer. 

Same thing, when we read the Quran now, we know that it is about bad and useless poetry. 

Later on he will say regarding my example of why his arguments are quite circular:

My Response:

Again this just shows Shamoun's ignorance of understanding scripture. He fails to realize that we look at the Prophet and see his actions and sayings in order to understand the Quran. 

Unlike Christians, what standard do they use to understand scripture? Who's interpretations are correct? The Unitarians or Trinitarians? Text could be interpreted in several ways, so who's standard to use? We use the Prophet because God himself set that standard. (Surah 16:44)


First, here is what Surah 16:44 says in context:

And We did not send before you any but men to whom We sent revelation -- so ask the followers of the Reminder if you do not know -- With clear arguments and scriptures; and We have revealed to you the Reminder that you may make clear to men what has been revealed to them, and that haply they may reflect. S. 16:43-44 Shakir

Zawadi assumes that this text is referring to Muhammad’s statements found in the Islamic narrations or hadith collections, as opposed to this simply being a reference to the answers and explanations that Muhammad would be given as part of the Quran. One often finds the Quran telling Muhammad to answer specific questions directed to him:

They ask you concerning the new moon. SAY: They are times appointed for (the benefit of) men, and (for) the pilgrimage; and it is not righteousness that you should enter the houses at their backs, but righteousness is this that one should guard (against evil); and go into the houses by their doors and be careful (of your duty) to Allah, that you may be successful. S. 2:189 Shakir

They ask you for a decision of the law. SAY: Allah gives you a decision concerning the person who has neither parents nor offspring; if a man dies (and) he has no son and he has a sister, she shall have half of what he leaves, and he shall be her heir she has no son; but if there be two (sisters), they shall have two-thirds of what he leaves; and if there are brethren, men and women, then the male shall have the like of the portion of two females; Allah makes clear to you, lest you err; and Allah knows all things. S. 4:176 Shakir

They ask you as to what is allowed to them. SAY: The good things are allowed to you, and what you have taught the beasts and birds of prey, training them to hunt -- you teach them of what Allah has taught you -- so eat of that which they catch for you and mention the name of Allah over it; and be careful of (your duty to) Allah; surely Allah is swift in reckoning. S. 5:4 Shakir

Moreover, the Quran even claims to be its own best explanation or tafsir:

A Scripture whereof the verses are expounded, a Lecture in Arabic for people who have knowledge, S. 41:3 Pickthall

And no question do they bring to thee but We reveal to thee the truth and the best explanation (waahsana tafseeran) (thereof). S. 25:33 Y. Ali

On the basis of the above examples one can legitimately argue that Muhammad’s interpretation refers to the answers provided in the Quran. In fact, these verses show that no other explanation is needed besides the Quran itself!

Third, the immediate context of the passage cited by Zawadi also says to go to the people of the reminder if they want verification for specific issues. In the context this refers to Jews and Christians whom the Quran says were given the reminder:

And We sent not (as Our messengers) before thee other than men, whom We inspired. Ask the followers of the Reminder if ye know not? S. 21:7 Pickthall

And We verily gave Moses and Aaron the Criterion (of right and wrong) and a light and a Reminder (thikran) for those who keep from evil, S. 21:48 Pickthall

And verily we have written in the Scripture, after the Reminder: My righteous slaves will inherit the earth: S. 21:105 Pickthall

And We verily gave Moses the guidance, and We caused the Children of Israel to inherit the Scripture, A guide and a reminder (thikra) for men of understanding. S. 40:53-54 Pickthall

Thus, Muslims must consult Jews and Christians whenever they need further clarification regarding the Quran!

Fourth, instead of exposing my ignorance on the subject, Zawadi actually has exposed his own. He assumes that the hadith literature provides clarity and a correct way of interpreting the Quran. He seems to be trying to play on the naiveté of his audience since he must know that such a claim doesn’t hold much weight. After all, do not modern Salafis and Asharis both appeal to the Quran and Muhammad’s Sunna? And yet haven’t both these groups come up with a different view of the nature of Allah, i.e. one group (Salafis) believes that Allah truly has a body, eyes, hands, feet, shin and truly sits on his throne, even though his body and mounting is different from that of his creatures. The other group (Asharis) denies that Allah has a body and asserts that these characteristics cannot be commented on, but that one should simply leave their realities to Allah. They even degradingly label Salafis who assert that Allah does have a body "anthropomorphists."

Moreover, Salafis disagree with other Sunni Muslims regarding whether Muhammad hears prayers offered to him, whether it is lawful to ask for his intercession, visit his grave etc. And yet they all claim to be reading and following the same sources! To see just how serious the debate and pervasive the differences are between these groups claiming to be following the Quran and Sunna we recommend the following links:

And here are some from the Salafi perspective:

As far as understanding the Holy Bible is concerned, one applies the same principles and methods of interpretation that are normally used when seeking to understand any document or text. The differences which arise in understanding the Bible is not so much because there is no sound method of exegesis, but because most people do not know or care to exegete the Bible properly. Other factors also affect how one views the text, such as traditional biases that do not allow the person to let the text say what it means.

Fifth, Zawadi further assumes that the narrations in al-Bukhari are actually Muhammad’s interpretations and explanations of the Quran, as opposed to being fabrications passed off as the words of Muhammad. Note his double standards here, Zawadi has called into question documents written much earlier and yet expects us to believe that these later traditions are even more reliable!

Sixth, taking for granted that these narrations are genuine (as we did in our initial paper), this doesn’t help explain the Quran since they not only contradict the Quran but other narrations from the same collection! We had cited specific narrations where Muhammad condemned poetry in general, without making a qualification between good or bad poetry:

Narrated Ibn ‘Umar:
The Prophet said, "It is better for a man to fill the inside of his body with pus than to fill it with poetry." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 175)

Narrated Abu Huraira:
Allah’s Apostle; said, "It is better for anyone of you that the inside of his body be filled with pus which may consume his body, than it be filled with poetry." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 8, Book 73, Number 176)

So puss is better than poetry! Note all the glaring errors that result from all of this.

  1. The Quran condemns poetry.
  2. Certain so-called sound Islamic narrations also condemn poetry.
  3. Yet there are other allegedly sound narrations which praise poetry, thereby contradicting both the Quran and other supposed authentic traditions.

But this introduces another problem, and further calls into question Muhammad’s consistency. Both of these conflicting narrations are said to have originated from Muhammad himself, which means that not only did Muhammad contradict the Quran but he also contradicted himself!

Zawadi now provides some Islamic commentaries for Sura 26:224.

My Response:

Here is the commentary regarding the verse


Ali reported, that Abu Saalih reported that Muawiya reported that Ali reported that Ibn Abbas, "As for the poets, they are followed only by the strayers" said: They are the disbelievers who are being followed by misguided Jinn and Mankind.  

So here we see that the poets are specifically the ones who are disbelievers who misguide people.

In another narration....


As for Allah's statement: "As for the poets", this is the plural of poet such as 'ignorant' and 'ignorants[sic]'. Ibn Abbas said: They are the disbelievers. 'They are followed only', these are the misguided ones among the Jinn and Mankind and it is said that "the strayers" are those who don't abide by the truth, and this points out that those poets are also strayers because if they weren't then strayers would not be their followers.

It is clear that the poets referred in this verse are the misguiding poets who lead people astray from the path of truth. So it is not in general talking about all poets.


What’s clear is how Zawadi selectively cites his sources, and chooses to conveniently ignore them when they happen to expose how weak his defense truly is:

… ‘Ikrimah said, "Two poets would ridicule one another in verse, with one group of people supporting one and another group supporting the other. Hence Allah revealed the Ayah, …

<As for the poets, the erring ones follow them.>"…

Al-‘Awfi reported that Ibn ‘Abbas said that at the time of the Messenger of Allah, two men, one from among the Ansar and one from another tribe, were ridiculing one another in verse, and each one of them was supported by a group of his own people, who were the foolish ones, and Allah said: …

<As for the poets, the erring ones follow them. See you not that they speak about every subject in their poetry? And that they say what they do not do.>

Muhammad bin Ishaq narrated from Yazid bin ‘Abdullah bin Qusayt, that Abu Al-Hasan Salim Al-Barrad, the freed servant of Tamim Ad-Dari said, "When the Ayah- …

<As for the poets, the erring ones follow them.>

was revealed, Hassan bin Thabit, ‘Abdullah bin Rawahah and Ka‘b bin Malik came to the Messenger of Allah WEEPING, AND SAID: "Allah knew when He revealed this THAT WE WERE POETS." The Prophet recited to them the Ayah, …

<Except those who believe and do righteous deeds,> and said: …

(((This means) you.))

<And remember Allah much>. He said: …

(((This means) you.))

<and vindicate themselves after they have been wronged>. He said:

(((This means) you.))

This was recorded by Ibn Abi Hatim and Ibn Jarir from the narration of Ibn Ishaq. (Tafsir Ibn Kathir (Abridged) (Surat An-Nur to Surat Al-Ahzab, verse 50), abridged by group of scholars under the supervision of Shaykh Safiur-Rahman Al-Mubarakpuri [Darussalam Publishers & Distributors, Riyadh, New York, London, Lahore, First Edition: August 2000], Volume 7, pp. 293-295; bold and underline emphasis ours)

A few things to note from the above reference. Ibn Kathir cited a tradition stating that Sura 26:224 was given in regards to poets who would attack each other through poetry, with groups supporting them. This is exactly what Muhammad did when he told Hassan ibn Thabit and other poets to lampoon his enemies through their poetry! More on this shortly.

Secondly, when poets such as Hassan heard this verse recited they immediately started crying since they knew that the language of the rebuke didn’t single out only bad poets or their poetry. Basically, this source provides support for what we have been saying that the language of the text is attacking all poets, and by extension all poetry, not just certain types of poets or poetry. Now let us quote the entire context to see if what Muhammad is said to have recited to comfort his poets actually supported his position:

And as to the poets, those who go astray follow them. Do you not see that they wander about bewildered in every valley? And that they say that which they do not do, Except those who believe and do good and remember Allah much, and defend themselves after they are oppressed; and they who act unjustly shall know to what final place of turning they shall turn back. S. 26:224-227 Shakir

As anyone reading this text can see, nothing in the verses that come after the condemnation of poetry provides the justification that Muhammad is said to have sought from them. The natural reading of the text suggests that the Quran is saying that poets and those that follow them are hypocrites and wander aimlessly, unlike the believers. They do what is right by not following poetry (not just certain kinds of poetry), remember Allah, and only defend themselves when they are attacked.

In light of this, it seems certain (at least to us) that Muslims fabricated the tradition cited by Ibn Kathir in order to explain why Muhammad allowed poets to compose poetry despite the Quran's express condemnation of it. In fact, this next narration provides further support that Muslims forged traditions in order to justify Muhammad's inconsistency:

871. In respect of "And as for the poets, is the misled who follow them. Do you not see how they ramble on in every style and that they say things which they do not do?" (26:223-225), Ibn 'Abbas said that it was abrogated and that an exception was made in His words, "except for those who believe and do right actions ... the kind of reversal they will receive." (26:226) (Al-Adab al-Mufrad Al-Bukhari, XXXV. Poetry; online source; bold and underline emphasis ours)

How interesting that according to Ibn Abbas Sura 26:226 abrogated 223-225! This narration again presupposes that the plain reading of Sura 26:221-227 is that all poetry is condemned without exception. Otherwise there would not be any need to postulate abrogation.

These Muslims were obviously trying to cover up Muhammad’s confused stance and inconsistency regarding poetry so they decided to read Sura 26:225-227 in a manner which allowed exceptions for certain kinds of poetry. Or, if Muhammad did say this then he was trying to correct an obvious mistake in the formulation of the Quran since the text as it stands makes no allowance for any kind of poetry.

In fact, the statement by Ibn Abbas seems to imply even more. Abrogation generally means that an earlier revelation is later replaced by another one that supersedes it. Thus, Ibn Abbas' comment seems to say that vv. 226-227 were added later in order to abrogate vv. 223-225 in the sense of restricting its originally absolute meaning. In other words, only after Muhammad realized the absolute formulation in vv. 223-225 meant trouble for his friends then the "revelation" was extended by adding an exception clause (vv. 226-227) to it, for the purpose of abrogating the absolute condemnation found in the earlier formulation.

Instead of refuting our original charge, this only confirms again how inconsistent Muhammad was since at one time he condemned poetry but in other situations he permitted it when it helped him attain his goal. And this inconsistency is not only found in Muhammad's behavior in the hadith, but even imported into the Quran the alleged revelation of Allah.

Whatever the case may be, one thing is proven from Ibn Kathir’s statements. The Quran as it now stands expressly condemns poetry in general without making any allowances whatsoever, since that is even how some of the earliest sources understood it! After all, the poets are those who best know the language. It is their profession! These three poets clearly understood that this verse was a strong condemnation of them, and that is why they came to Muhammad weeping.

We mentioned that Zawadi was criticizing the content of poetry whereas the Quran is speaking about its form, to which Zawadi states:

My Response:

Well it is talking about both Sam. Like you said, bad content whether in the form of poetry or prose is still bad. It does not matter. But there is a reason why poetry could be worse than prose. Because like you said, it HAS THE FORM. It is all about communication skills if you think about it. 

Two people might say the very same thing but if some one says it in a more charismatic manner then it would have greater effects. Sam Shamoun who has experience as a debater should know this. He should know that some one who talks with confidence when presenting and has good body language makes the person's presentation more effective. This is common sense and everyone knows it. 

Especially the Arabs back then loved poetry. Poets could entice people to do many things. Poets even enticed people to go to war! So both form and content matter. 

The Prophet was not only condemning form. If some one had good poetry to spread Islam and it was in a poetic form the Prophet would not go and condemn it because of the form even though its content was good. 

The Prophet would only condemn the form if the content was bad. 

Sorry Sam but I would have to say that your the one who is committing the fallacy.

And later he will say:

My Response:

I clearly showed that the poets in the verse are the disbelieving ones who misguide people. Just like Ibn Abbas said, if those poets were good then the misguided ones would not be their followers. So the poets in that verses had to be misguided poets. 

Its interesting to see when Sam does not want to look at the Tafsirs of verses when they could seem to help him.


It seems that Zawadi can see things in the Quran not expressly stated. He seems to be able to glean from the Quran’s condemnation of poetry an attack not on its form, but on its contents. But, as the comments of Ibn Kathir showed, there were some Muslims who saw in Sura 26:224 a condemnation of all poetry, not just specific kinds.

To provide further proof that the Quran is attacking the form, not just the content, of poetry notice what the following texts say regarding Muhammad being a poet:

And We have not taught him poetry, nor is it meet for him; it is nothing but a reminder and a plain Quran, S. 36:69 Shakir

And to say: What! shall we indeed give up our gods for the sake of a mad poet? S. 37:36 Shakir

That it is indeed the speech of an illustrious messenger. It is not poet's speech - little is it that ye believe! S. 69:40-41 Pickthall

When it says that poetry wasn't meet for Muhammad it obviously couldn't be due to the content since the people were labeling what he was reciting of the Quran as poetry! Basically this means that it is the form of poetry that wasn't befitting for Muhammad to recite.

Zawadi’s real reason for insisting that the Quran is attacking the content of poetry, not its form, is because of the narrations stating that Muhammad permitted the use of poetry in his mission! Instead of seeing this as what it truly is, a glaring example of Muhammad’s inconsistency, Muhammad contradicting both the Quran and himself, he must argue tooth and nail that the Quran is only attacking certain kinds of poetry. In other words, it’s nothing more than Zawadi’s circular argumentation being brought to the forefront once again.

And sorry Zawadi, but we must definitely say that you’re the one who has and continues to commit fallacy after fallacy.

In his concluding section Zawadi is humble enough to admit that he was wrong in his formulation since his criteria basically exposed Muhammad for being inconsistent. As a result of this he corrects his position, which is not wrong since we all make mistakes and need to be corrected. After all, only God and his Word (i.e. the Holy Bible) are infallible:

My Response:

When you read the commentary of the hadith you see that Hassan told the Prophet that he would keep attacking the Quraysh with his poetry until they have nothing left to attack the Prophet with. 

The poetry was used in order to defend the Prophet's honor. 

Sam Shamoun said that according to my criteria Muhammad is exposed. 

The criteria that I said previously in my article as to what is good poetry is this.

Poetry in its essence is not what is forbidden in Islam. It is poetry that that does nothing but promotes and instigates indecency, illegal lusts and desires, and inspires one towards transgression of the boundaries of Islam.

If the poetry encourages the believers to believe in Allah and follow His Commands, it would be considered good poetry and absolutely encouraged in Islam. But the poetry which do not inspire faith in Allah, nor strengthen ones belief in Allah’s Oneness, nor kindle one’s heart to love Allah; but rather glamorize lust and the pursuit of the world, etc.;  such poetry is disliked and discouraged in Islam.

Thus in conclusion, it is not poetry which is disliked or discouraged, but what will determine its permissibility is what message the poetry is portraying to its readers.

The message that the poetry is sending is the defense of the Prophet's honor.

However, Shamoun is right. My criteria should be changed and be made more clear. Now the criteria is:

If the poetry encourages the believers to believe in Allah and follow His Commands, it would be considered good poetry and absolutely encouraged in Islam. But the poetry which do not inspire faith in Allah, nor strengthen ones belief in Allah’s Oneness, nor kindle one’s heart to love Allah or defend the honor of Allah and His Messenger; but rather glamorize lust and the pursuit of the world, etc.;  such poetry is disliked and discouraged in Islam.

Thanks for correcting my criteria Sam. I really appreciate it buddy.


You are most welcome. It is a pleasure to help you and everyone to see the truth more clearly.

However, despite admitting that I was right Zawadi’s reformulation doesn’t fair any better. What Zawadi’s statements now imply is that Muhammad had no qualms about violating the teachings of the Quran or contradict his own words if it helped him humiliate his enemies. In other words, Zawadi is only helping to prove that Muhammad adopted the same kind of tactics which he condemned others for using just so he could defend himself. Muhammad basically ended up repaying evil with evil, instead of refraining himself from breaking the commands of his god. In fact, recall Ibn Kathir’s comments on Sura 26:224 who said that this was recited in connection with people ridiculing one another through poetry, which is the very thing Muhammad did when he had Hassan lampoon those poets that were lampooning him!

Is it in principle wrong to ridicule and lampoon others? If yes, then why does Muhammad endorse Hassan to do this? If no, then why does he condemn others who do it – among each other and against Muhammad?

Or is it only wrong for others to ridicule Muhammad but not wrong for Muslims to ridicule the enemies of Islam? If so, then this shows the arbitrary nature of Islam, and is exactly the inconsistency that we have been talking about all along.

Muhammad would have done well to heed the following biblical advice:

"Repay no one evil for evil, but take thought for what is noble in the sight of all. If possible, so far as it depends upon you, live peaceably with all. Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.’ No, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals upon his head.’ Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good." Romans 12:19-21

Hence, no matter from what angle Zawadi tries to look at, Muhammad ends up looking bad for violating the express orders of his own god!

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