A Short Biography of Muhammad

This article uses as a main source 'Muhammad' by Maxime Rodinson (Penguin, 1996). I also use 'Why I am not a Muslim' by Ibn Warraq (Prometheus, 1995). I have also looked at biographies of Muhammad written by Muslims and published by the Islamic Texts Society. Although my main sources are not Muslims and neither am I, it must be emphasised that all that they say is drawn from highly esteemed biographies of the Prophet by Ibn Ishaq (died 767 AD), Ibn Hisham (died 833 AD), Al-Tabari (died 923 AD).


Sadly, I have been unable to obtain 'Twenty-Three Years' by Ali Dashti, but from what I have read of it, I can recommend it.

This article is aimed at atheists , not Muslims. If you are a Muslim, you will find some offensive things on this page. DO NOT READ THEM if you will be offended.

A Brief Resume of Muhammad's life

This resume outlines Muhammad's life and then I look more carefully at several specific incidents.

The most commonly accepted date for the birth of Muhammad is 571 AD. He was born in Mecca. When he was 25 or so, he married an older, richer women called Khadija. This marriage seems to have been a great success and a happy marriage. Muhammad handled her business affairs with great skill, despite being, as all Muslims avow, illiterate.

When he was about 35 to 40, he began a habit of retreating to a cave in the hills near Mecca to pray to Allah. One day he heard a voice say (in Arabic), 'You are the Messenger of God'. The date was about AD 610, or possibly a couple of years later. A voice told him to recite. "Qur'an" means 'Recitation'.

Some people in Mecca began to follow his teachings. Naturally, this aroused fierce opposition and persecution. Ibn Ishaq describes the activities of one of Muhammad's fiercest opponents. He asked people to boycott Muhammad's business and accused him of abandoning the faith of his father. Despite this horrible persecution, further revelations followed and Muhammad continued to live in Mecca and build up the number of followers of Islam.

Muhammad's wide , Khadija, died in AD 619. A few weeks later Muhammad married one of the faithful, called Sawda. A little later he married a six year old girl called Aisha, although the marriage was not consummated until she was nine.

This is record in Bukhari's Hadith eg

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 64:

that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old, and then she remained with him for nine years (i.e., till his death).

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 65:

that the Prophet married her when she was six years old and he consummated his marriage when she was nine years old. Hisham said: I have been informed that 'Aisha remained with the Prophet for nine years (i.e. till his death)."

Volume 7, Book 62, Number 88:

The Prophet wrote the (marriage contract) with 'Aisha while she was six years old and consummated his marriage with her while she was nine years old and she remained with him for nine years (i.e. till his death).

The marriage of Muhammad to a six year old girl is also recorded in Abu Dawud's hadith and in Muslim' hadith.

The unbelieving Meccans continued to persecute the followers of Islam. One threw a sheep's womb at him. In the face of such opposition, Muhammad decided to move to Medina. This took place in September 622 AD. The Muslim calendar starts from the start of that year (16 July 622) and this emigration is called the hijra, or hegira, in an English transliteration.

Muhammad had little means of support in Medina. He started to organise raiding parties against Meccan caravans. A fifth of the spoils fell to him. One of these raiding parties took place in the sacred month of Rajab. This shocked the Medinans, but Allah said it was OK. The Qu'ran 2:217 "They ask you concerning the sacred month about fighting in it. Say: Fighting in it is a grave matter, and hindering men from Allahs way and denying Him, and hindering men from the Sacred Mosque and turning its people out of it, are still graver with Allah, and persecution is graver than slaughter; and they will not cease fighting with you until they turn you back from your religion, if they can; and whoever of you turns back from his religion, then he dies while an unbeliever." Killing people in the sacred month is wrong, but these were unbelievers.

The Battle of Badr

The Meccans were upset by the Muslim attacks on their trading caravans. They met the Muslims at the Battle of Badr. The Muslims won, with the help of Allah and a thousand angels. Muhammad's position in Medina was consolidated and he could move against his enemies in Medina, particularly those who had written satirical poems about him. Several were assassinated.

The Battle of the Trench

In 627 AD , an even bigger army than the one at Badr attacked Medina. The inhabitants of Medina dug a trench and prepared for a siege. Even the last Jewish tribe in Medina , the Qurayza, co-operated, but on the whole remained neutral. For two weeks, the two armies traded insults over the trench. There were a few casualties among each side, but the attacking army did not fancy trying to cross the trench to meet the well-dug in Muslim forces. After 2 or 3 weeks, they simply went home.

There were far more casualties after the battle than before it, but more on that later.


In the sacred month of Ramadan in 630 AD, Muhammad set out with an army of 10,000 men on Mecca. The Meccans realised that resistance was futile and Muhammad conquered Mecca with the loss of 2 or 3 on his side and about 20 or 30 on the Meccan side. Muhammad died 2 years later in June 632 AD.

The Aftermath of the Battle of the Trench

Hadith are stories about Muhammad. There are some highly revered collections. The collection by al-Bukhari is regarded very highly by Muslims.

Here is number 280 in volume 4 of Bukhari's hadith.

When the tribe of Banu Quraiza was ready to accept Sad's judgement, Allah's Apostle sent for Sad who was near to him. Sad came, riding a donkey and when he came near, Allah's Apostle said (to the Ansar), "Stand up for your leader." Then Sad came and sat beside Allah's Apostle who said to him. "These people are ready to accept your judgement." Sad said, "I give the judgement that their warriors should be killed and their children and women should be taken as prisoners." The Prophet then remarked, "O Sad! You have judged amongst them with (or similar to) the judgement of the King Allah."

At the Battle of the Trench in 627 AD, the last Jewish tribe in Medina, the Banu Qurayza had been neutral. (Banu means 'sons of'). On the day the Battle finished, Muhammad turned against them. After a siege they surrendered. Muhammad appointed Sa'd ibn Mu'adh, who had been wounded in the battle, as their judge. He gave the judgement recorded as above in the Islamic sources - a judgement which Muhammad said Allah approved of.

The next day, at least 600 Jewish men were beheaded in public on the edge of trenches and their bodies thrown in. The women and children were sold. Muhammad took one of the women - Rayhana, newly widowed, as a concubine.

The Qu'ran mentions this event in Sura 33:25-27

25. And Allah turned back the unbelievers in their rage; they did not obtain any advantage, and Allah sufficed the believers in fighting; and Allah is Strong, Mighty.

26. And He drove down those of the followers of the Book who backed them from their fortresses and He cast awe into their hearts; some you killed and you took captive another part.

27. And He made you heirs to their land and their dwellings and their property, and to a land which you have not yet trodden, and Allah has power over all things.

More Hadith

Enemies of Muhammad would often write satirical poems about him. In those days, such poets were dangerous. Here is one of Bukhari's hadith (Volume 4, Number 270), showing how one was dealt with

The Prophet said, "Who is ready to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has really hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Muhammad bin Maslama said, "O Allah's Apostle! Do you like me to kill him?" He replied in the affirmative. So, Muhammad bin Maslama went to him (i.e. Ka'b) and said, "This person (i.e. the Prophet) has put us to task and asked us for charity." Ka'b replied, "By Allah, you will get tired of him." Muhammad said to him, "We have followed him, so we dislike to leave him till we see the end of his affair." Muhammad bin Maslama went on talking to him in this way till he got the chance to kill him.

The elimination of Ka'b took place after the Battle of Badr. The story goes that the head of Ka'b was placed at Muhammad's feet. There are other stories of elimination of the opponents of Muhammad. For example, Ocba, Asma bint Marwam and Abu Afak were all murdered. To read about them, I suggest you buy 'Muhammad' by Maxime Rodinson .

Rebuttal by Mike G Wotruba

It seems that the majority of your arguments are no more than belief oriented. They are based on the morals and norms which are prevalent in the modern secular, humanist and sophistic society. For example arguing against the character of Mohammed by citing his marriage to a child demonstrates nothing more than the modern obsession with prolonged independence and childhood, due to the lengthened life spans which are now common. Mohammed's character cannot be attacked in this manner. It was incredibly common in these days for women to marry young. Even in Europe these things were true when women often married at twelve and men at thirteen. While I do not condone such practices now I do say that do to the high infant mortality rate of the time it was essential to marry so young to ensure as many surviving offspring as possible. Survival was key. This also fits the argument of polygamy. In warring cultures there were obviously many more women than men.

I've also heard the argument made that he was bad because he had slaves. I hate to say it but there are slaves today especially in the materialistic secular world we live in. Is it not true that the majority of the western world's population acquire debts they spend their whole life paying off? They must work in order to pay the financial institutions, and may not even if they desire to with their property and their resources as they see fit. The humanist philosophers of the enlightenment who condemn slavery condoned it by their economic models,

it was simply informal slavery. Now we are all slaves to governments and powerful corporations.

In addition to this you attempt to use 'history' as a key component to your argument, yet the majority of this 'history' comes from either enemies of Mohammed or from Hadith written down so long after the prophet's existence that they are unreliable or irrelevant. Hadith are good for stories but nothing more, they are proof of nothing because they developed in different areas by oral tradition. They are unnecessary they simply give basic guidelines for things like charity and salot.

As far as your attempts to discredit the Koran go, I find them week at best. The argument against the word of God versus that of Mohammed holds little water, when put in light of the information about Mohammed's times. It was not about getting Mohammed off the hook at all. It was about the broken oath. Mohammed was in no way to be held to such a promise as the one made in the first place, because the quarrel was in essence superficial.


It seems to be a popular thing now to say that killing should never be condoned within society. Yet Robbespiere of the infamous French revolution held in high esteem the innovators of such a theorem.

Lennon preached atheism but found it necessary to kill his opponents.

Stalin had many killed based on his Atheistic principles. All religious beliefs have bloody history. What about Hiroshima, Nagasaki? Dresden?

How harshly were the German people treated by the allied people after World War Two. Your secular humanist principles can be argued against with the same arguments you use against Islam. Why would the Jewish men be killed that you made reference to? I cannot say but who can. Such an obscure and removed history cannot be used to judge the truth. Who knows what they will say in a thousand years or what they will know about Dresden? We only know speculative information concerning the Roman emperors and that was in a highly literate society, even many slaves could read.

If you will notice I have used almost NO theology in these arguments.

When the Koran says make verses similar to itself that means make a whole volume, while a good poet may not be easy to find certainly one could easily produce a few good lines, but try to make an entire volume of it.

The mercy of Allah is not worldly mercy. It seems that mercy has come to mean this, this idea is not the nature portrayed in the Koran. Yes it says certain people will burn in the fires of hell, but these are warnings. The final judgement is that of Allah and that is when there will be mercy. Does a parent tell their child when laying down a rule that the consequence that is set up is mutable? No Way. The parent exerts control on the child to mold the child into the way they feel the child should be. Allah does not force us to comply but tells the consequences.

Now why the harsh punishments? You try living in a desert culture and have a thief among your number, or a mother with a child whom no one strong enough to control a plow is there to support, it is difficult enough in our own societies even with our highly structured socialist backbone. You tell me that there are benefits to single mothers and children of them and you get one psychiatrist to prove to me that the children of a broken home are better off. These penalties (beating cutting off hands, cutting off feet, death) are ways to ensure the produce of the society was not wasted on the violators of the understood 'social contract'. Maybe such penalties don't seem relevant today, but that is only because we live in an age of mass consumption and waste, and the western Europeans let the apples rot on the trees while people world wide starve. The only reason the crimes which were so heinous at the time seem small now is because we are so wasteful in the western world. How many televisions are there per person in different western nations? Why do we burn so much fuel at night in order to keep factories up 24 hours, rather than wait for daylight? It is the cursed thing called industrialization. George Gordon, Lord Byron spoke out against such things, and Rousseau, before Byron, condemned the growing trends in the direction of industry.

I see your arguments against Islam as little more than petty sophistries supporting and supported by your intellectual bibles, and by the norms and morales of the society we live in. The arguments are inherently relative and have little bearing for they attack in illogical and roundabout manners which are so prevailing in society, especially through the media. Oh have no intention to live in Aldous Huxley's brave new world, with that societies morals and habits, yet see us going there as fast as Huxley himself did.


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