Muhammad was born around 570 AD to a widowed mother who died just six years later. He grew up poor and orphaned on the margins of society, which was controlled by tribal chiefs and trading merchants. He worked for his uncle, Abu Talib, as a camel herder. Although his uncle had some standing in the community, Muhammad himself did not rise above his lowly station until he was 25, when he met and married a wealthy widow, Khadija, who was 15 years older.
His wife’s trading business not only nurtured Muhammad’s natural talents of persuasion, but it also gave the successful salesman an opportunity to travel and acquire knowledge that was not as accessible to the local population. He would later use this to his advantage by incorporating the stories that he had come across into his “revelations” from Allah, particularly the tales from the earlier religions, Judaism and Christianity.
Having attained a comfortable lifestyle and the idle time that wealth affords, Muhammad would wander off occasionally for periods of meditation and contemplation. It is quite likely that he was experiencing the symptoms of a midlife crisis, including a desire for personal accomplishment and meaning.
One day, at the age of 40, he told his wife that he had been visited by the angel Gabriel in a dream. Thus began a series of “revelations” which lasted almost until his death 23 years later. The Qur’an is a collection of words that Muhammad attributed to Allah. The Hadith is a collection of narrations of the life and deeds of Muhammad. The Sira is his recorded biography. The Sunnah is said to be Muhammad’s way of life, on which Islamic law (Sharia) is based.
With his wife’s influence and support, Muhammad proclaimed himself a prophet in same “lineage” as that of Abraham and Jesus, and began trying to convert those around him to his new religion. He narrated the Quran to those who believed him, telling them that it was the word of Allah (heard only by himself, of course).
Relations with the Meccans turned particularly sour after an episode known as “the Satanic Verses” in which Muhammad agreed to recognize the local gods in addition to Allah. This delighted the Meccans, who generously extended their welcome. But Muhammad soon changed his mind after his own people began to lose faith in him. He claimed that Satan had spoken through him, and he rescinded recognition of the Meccan gods (Tabari 1192, Quran 22:52 & 53:19-26).
To deal with this unpleasant truth, sympathetic narratives of the early Meccan years usually exaggerate the struggle of the Muslims with claims that they were “under constant torture.” They may also include apocryphal accounts that are unsupported by earliest and most reliable historians (see MYTH: Persecution of Muslims at Mecca – Many Deaths).
Modern storytellers and filmmakers (such as those behind 1976’s The Message) have even been known to invent fictional victims of Meccan murder, either to dramatize their own tale or to provide justification for the “revenge killings” that followed. But, in fact, the only Muslim whose life was truly in danger was that of Muhammad – after 13 years of being allowed to mock the local religion. (See also MYTH: Muhammad was Tortured at Mecca).
It was at Medina that Islam evolved from a relatively peaceful religion borrowed from others and into a military force that was intended to govern all aspects of society. During these last ten years of Muhammad’s life, infidels were evicted or enslaved, converted upon point of death and even rounded up and slaughtered depending on expediency.
To fund his quest for control, Muhammad first directed his followers to raid Meccan caravans in the holy months, when the victims would least expect it. This was despite the fact that the Meccans were not bothering him in Medina (see MYTH: Muhammad and his Muslims were Persecuted by the Meccans at Medina).
Muhammad provided his people with convenient revelations “from Allah” which allowed them to murder innocent drivers and steal their property (Ibn Ishaq/Hisham 426). The people around him gradually developed a lust for things that could be taken in battle, including material comforts and captured women and children. (See also MYTH: Muhammad Raided Caravans to Retrieve Stolen Property).
Often the people captured in battle would be brought before the self-proclaimed prophet, where they would plead for their lives, arguing, for example, that they would never have treated the Muslims that way. The traditions are quite clear in portraying Muhammad as largely unmoved by their pleas, and ordering their deaths anyway, often by horrible means. In one case, he orders a man slain, telling him that “Hell” will take care of the poor fellow’s orphaned daughter (Ishaq 459). (See also MYTH: Muhammad Never Killed Captives)
The raids on caravans preceded the first major battle involving a Muslim army, the Battle of Badr. This was the spot where the Meccans had sent their own army to protect their caravans from Muslim raiders. Although, Muslims today like to claim that they only attack others in self-defense, this was clearly not the case in Muhammad’s time. In fact, he had to compel his reluctant warriors with promises of paradise and assurances that their religion was more important than the lives of others. (See also MYTH: The Battle of Badr was Defensive).
First, to try and gain their favor, Muhammad briefly preached that Christians and Jews could attain salvation through their own faith. In fact, he changed his followers’ direction for prayer from Mecca to Jerusalem, which prompted the Jews’ tolerance of him while he worked surreptitiously for the power to evict them. These earlier concessions and teachings were later revoked by Muhammad, since the Jews ultimately refused his religion. The rare early verses of tolerance in the Quran are abrogated by later verses such as 9:29.
While we were in the Mosque, the Prophet came out and said, “Let us go to the Jews” We went out till we reached Bait-ul-Midras. He said to them, “If you embrace Islam, you will be safe. You should know that the earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle, and I want to expel you from this land. So, if anyone amongst you owns some property, he is permitted to sell it, otherwise you should know that the Earth belongs to Allah and His Apostle.” Bukhari 53:392
The Jews of Mecca were the first in a very long line of unfortunate people to be offered the opportunity to convert to Islam under obvious duress. Forcible conversion is very much a Muslim tradition started by Muhammad (see MYTH: Muhammad Rejected Conversions to Islam made under Duress)
Since they chose to hold on to their religion (and their property) Muhammad looked for reasons to go to war against the Jews at Medina. According to some Muslims, the first tribe, the Qaynuqa, were driven from their homes and land on the pretext that one of their own had harassed a Muslim woman. Although the offender was killed prior to this by a Muslim, the Muslim was also killed by Jews in retaliation for the first murder.
After laying siege to the entire community and defeating the tribe, Muhammad wanted to put every male member to death, but was talked out of it by an associate – something that Allah later “rebuked” him for. The Qaynuqa were forced into exile and the Muslims took their possessions and property, making it their own. Muhammad personally reserved a fifth of the ill-gotten gain for himself (a rule that he was sure to include in the Quran).
The Jews of the Banu Qurayza tasted Muhammad’s wrath after their leader half-heartedly sided with the Meccan army during a siege of Medina (the Battle of the Trench). By then, Muhammad had evicted the other Jews and declared that all land at Medina belonged to him, so the original constitution of the town was no longer in effect. It is important to note that the Qurayza did not attack the Muslims, even after switching loyalties (contrary to another popular myth).
Although the Qurayza surrendered peacefully to the Muslims, Muhammad determined to have every man of the tribe executed, along with every boy that had reached the initial stages of puberty (between the ages of 12 and 14). He ordered a ditch dug outside of the town and had the victims brought to him in several groups. Each person would be forced to kneel, and their head would be cut off and then dumped along with the body into the trench.
Between 700 and 900 men and boys were slaughtered by the Muslims after their surrender. (Bold Emphasis Mine)
The surviving children of the men became slaves of the Muslims, and their widows became sex slaves. This included the Jewish girl, Rayhana, who became one of Muhammad’s personal concubines the very night that her husband was killed. The prophet of Islam apparently “enjoyed her pleasures” (ie. raped her) even as the very execution of her people was taking place.
At one point following a battle, Muhammad provided instructions on how women should be raped after capture, telling his men not to worry about coitus interruptus, since “Allah has written whom he is going to create.” (See also MYTH: Muhammad Never Approved of Rape)
Following the battle against the Hunain, late in his life, Muhammad’s men were reluctant to rape the captured women in front of their husbands (who were apparently still alive to witness the abomination), but Allah came to the rescue with a handy “revelation” that allowed the debauchery. (This is the origin of Sura 4:24 according to Abu Dawud 2150).
Not content with waiting for Allah to act on his behalf, Muhammad had personal critics executed, including poets. One of these was a mother of five children, who was stabbed to death by Muhammad’s envoy after a suckling infant was removed from her breast (see MYTH: Muhammad Never Killed Women). Other innocent people were killed merely because they were of a different religion, sometimes including children (see MYTH: Muhammad Never Killed Children).
An elderly woman named Umm Qirfa once ran afoul of Muhammad merely by fighting back when her tribe was targeted by Muslim raiders. Muhammad’s adopted son tied the woman’s legs separately to two camels, then set the camels off in opposite directions, tearing the woman’s body in two. He also killed her two sons – presumably in gruesome fashion – and made her daughter into a sex slave. (See also MYTH: Muhammad Never Killed the Elderly).
… (The Life of Muhammad: An Inconvenient Truth; TheReligionofPeace.com; Read Entirety)