Did the Prophet (s) order the execution of those who fought against him?

This question seeks to investigate the Prophet’s (s) treatment of his enemies. Did he order the assassination of individuals and the execution of captives of war? Is it possible to reconcile this with the Prophet’s image of mercy?

The Mercy of Prophet Muhammed (s)

Before examining this specific case of the Prophet (s) and his interactions with his enemies, it is important to establish his character in general. Allah (swt) says:

“And We have not sent you [O Muhammad] but as a Mercy for the worlds,”

(The Quran 21:107)

It is a reminder that our Prophet (s) was a man of mercy who embodied a religion of peace, Islam; mercy was at the heart of his mission. This is exemplified in the Prophet (s)’s interactions with people. Examples such as offering assistance to a woman in her moment of weakness, kindness to a person who threw garbage at him daily all manifest the love and mercy he had towards others (Sheriff & Alloo, 2012). Similar instances of kindness and generosity have been recounted many times throughout the life of the Prophet (s).

The Prophet’s (s) mercy extended to his enemies as well. This is clear in his overall treatment of war captives after the Battle of Badr: they were given horses to ride to Madina and upon arrival easily given freedom in exchange for ransom or by teaching others to read (Rizvi, 1999). A second example is the restraint the Prophet (s) demonstrated when dealing with the Meccans after they broke the Treaty of Hudaybiyyah (Rizvi, 1999). The Prophet (s) went to confront the Meccans with an army of 10,000 men, yet upon their surrender, not a single drop of blood was shed. It is important to note that these were people who had caused the Prophet (s) much pain and difficulty in the past. The fact that the Prophet (s) chose peace when he had the clear upper hand is a testament to his strength and mercy

Islamic Justice

Islam is also a religion of justice which beautifully combines the concepts of turning the other cheek (i.e. no revenge) with an eye for an eye. The Prophet (s) was not foolish to blindly forgive others in the face of injustice and terror. Rather, he stood up for justice and was a source of fear for oppressors. To do so otherwise would have been a disservice to the rest of society and a form of injustice. On this note Imam Ali (a) has said (Qara’ati, 2012):

“Justice is the essence of the people’s welfare as well as the adherence to the Divine path” . 

Imam Ali

Islamic justice stipulates that the punishment for an individual who intentionally kills an innocent person or whose actions lead to the killing of innocent lives is death; it is a life for a life. In the Quran, certain circumstances are mentioned in which it is acceptable to kill another; 

“Verily the recompense of those who wage war against Allah and His Messenger and do mischief in the land is only that they shall be killed or crucified’

The Quran 5:33.

As an extension of His justice, Allah (swt) says that the punishment for waging a military, ideological, or propaganda war against Him or His messenger as well as committing activities that will disturb the security of the community, may be death, depending on its severity (Leghaei, 2018).  Even then, the verse after talks about forgiveness if the person repents – Except for those who repent before you apprehend them. And know that Allah is Forgiving and Merciful (5:34).

Another instance when the penalty is life, is when a person kills someone. The Quran says:

‘O you who believe, prescribed for you is legal retribution for those murdered . . . ‘(2:178). This is justice. But again, it tempered by mercy. The verse continues to say, ‘But whoever overlooks from his brother anything, then there should be a suitable follow-up and payment to him with good conduct. This is an alleviation from your Lord and a mercy.’

Taking life without any of these just causes is so serious that the Quran declares, ‘whoever kills a soul unless for a soul or for corruption [done] in the land – it is as if he had slain mankind entirely. And whoever saves one – it is as if he had saved mankind entirely’ (5:32) The Prophet (s) who received the Quranic revelations and commanded people to obey it, would not go against its laws.

The Executions and Assassinations linked to Prophet Muhammed (s)

As per Mansour Leghaei’s article, Was Muhammed (S) a Prophet of Terror?!, the four accounts against the Prophet are as follows:

  1. Assassination of Ka’ab Ibn Ashraf: a chief of the Bani Nadhir (a Jewish tribe in Medina) who cried over the dead soldiers of the Quraysh and harassed the Muslims. It is said that the Prophet (s) was disturbed by this and asked his companions to end his mischief in the land (i.e. to assassinate him). Ka’ab was assassinated in the outskirts of Medina and his head was taken to the Prophet (s). This was a practice at that time.
  2. Assassination of Abu Ra`feh: a man who assisted Ka`ab Ibn Ashraf. Some Muslims requested permission to assassinate him from the Prophet (s) and he granted it. They killed him at night in his bed.
  3. Execution of two captives of war: of the 70 captives of war from the Battle of Badr, two were executed. The first was Uqbah Ibn Abi-Moee’t, a man similar to Abu Lahab, who mobilised many of the Quraysh to fight against the Prophet (s) in the Battle of Badr. The second was Abu Azza, who promised to never again fight against Muslims or incite others to do so once captured at the Battle of Badr, but broke his promise and was executed once captured again at the Battle of Uhud. 

The authenticity of the narrations related to these incidents is questionable. In Islam assassination is haram. As outlined earlier, the Quran (and the Prophet) lays down stringent rules for justice. Even if we were to assume that these narrations are true, they align with the concepts of Islamic Justice as all four men were mischief makers and thus their death is acceptable according to the above verse (The Quran 5:33). Also note that in the case of Abu Raf’feh’s assassination, it is mentioned specifically that his family was not harmed, indicating that the Muslims were only killing the one they were authorized to do so. As for the war captives, note that of the 70 captives from Badr, only two were executed, and Abu Azza’s execution was not even after the Battle of Badr. 

From this, it is clear that the execution of war captives was not the norm for the Prophet (s).


Leghaei, M. (2018, January 5). Was Muhammad (S) a Prophet of Terror?! Al-Islam.org. https://www.al-islam.org/articles/was-muhammad-s-prophet-terror-mansour-leghaei

Qara’ati, M. (2012). Social Justice (S.M.S. Hyder, Trans.). Islamic Seminary Publications. 

Rizvi, S. A. (1975). Inner Voice (2nd ed.). Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania.

Rizvi, S. A. (1999). The Life of Muhammad The Prophet | Al-Islam.org. Darul Tabligh North America. 

Sheriff, A. H. & Alloo, A. S. (2012). Bilal’s Bedtime Stories. Bilal Muslim Mission of Kenya. 

Did the Prophet (s) marry a nine-year-old?

No, Prophet Muhammad (s) did not marry Lady Aisha when she was a child. When discussing such questions, it is important to note that hadith like these have untrustworthy narrators attributed to the Bani Ummayah (Al-Qazwini, 2015). Such hadith were used to defame the Prophet (s) (Al-Musawi, 2019) and are commonly referenced to elevate the status of Aisha (Al-Qazwini, 2015). 

This false claim is linked to a fabricated hadith that places her at the age of six or nine years upon marriage. As the year of Aisha’s birth is unknown, circumstances linked to her life allow us to better gauge her age and indicate that she was at least a teenager of 15 or 16 years when she married the Prophet (s), an age common for marriage in many cultures at the time. We can draw this conclusion by comparing these circumstances to the year of Aisha’s marriage, which took place either in 1 AH, 2 AH, or 4 AH, according to various hadith. (Al-Musawi, 2019; Al-Qazwini, 2015; Masterton, 2020). 

One way to establish Aisha’s age at the time of her marriage to the Prophet (s) is by comparing her age with that of her elder sister, Asma bint Abu Bakr. Asma was 10 years older than Aisha. Given that traditions state that she died at 100 years old in 73 AH, Asma was 27-years-old at Hijra. This means that Lady Aisha was 17 years old at Hijra and could have been between 18-21 years at the time of her marriage. (Al-Qazwini, 2015).

Another event to consider is the age of Aisha when she converted. According to the prominent scholars of Ahl al-Sunnah, Aisha accepted Islam during the first year of the mission of the Prophet, while she was a child. This has been mentioned in Ibn Hisham’s version of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rashul Allah, the earliest surviving biography of Muhammad. If she was about 7 years at that time, she would be between 21-24 years at the time of her marriage (Al-Qazwini, 2015). Even if she was only 5 years old at the time of her conversion, she would be between 19-23 years at the time of her marriage.

Yet another event worthy of consideration is her age when Surah al-Qamar (The Quran, 54) was revealed. According to al-Bukhari Aisha is reported to have said that at the time that sura was revealed, ‘I was a young girl’. The 54th Surah of the Qur’an was revealed nine years before Hijrah (Masterton, 2020). If we consider a ‘young girl’ being about 7 years (could be older), at the time of her marriage she would be at least 17 years old.

It is thus logical to conclude that the Prophet (s) did not marry Lady Aisha when she was a child. As for Aisha’s exact age at the time of her marriage, Allah knows best.


Al-Musawi, S. M. (2019, November 24). What was the age of Hadrat Ayesha when our Prophet (SAW) married her? Al-Islam.org. https://www.al-islam.org/ask/what-was-the-age-of-hadrat-ayesha-when-our-prophet-saw-married-her/sayyed-mohammad-al-musawi

Al-Qazwini, M. H. H. (2015, June 4). How Old Was A’yshah When She Married The Prophet Muhammad? (A. N. Al-Tabrizi, Trans.). Al-Islam.org. https://www.al-islam.org/articles/how-old-was-ayshah-when-she-married-prophet-muhammad-ayatullah-muhammad-husayn-husayni-al

Masterton, R. (2020, March 14). Was Aisha married to the Prophet Muhammad (s) at the age of six? If yes, what was the Divine wisdom behind it? Al-Islam.org. https://www.al-islam.org/ask/was-aisha-married-to-the-prophet-muhammad-s-at-the-age-of-six-if-yes-what-was-the-divine-wisdom-behind-it/rebecca-masterton

Did the Prophet (s) suffer from epilepsy?

Despite the numerous suspicions over the course of history that claim that Prophet Muhammad (s) suffered from epilepsy, there is no real evidence to support this idea. Rather, if one studies his life and analyses the way the Prophet (s) behaved, it is evident that he was a wise and knowledgeable man and did not have the symptoms common to epilepsy. 

In order to better understand this question, we first define epilepsy and the symptoms associated with it.

According to Mayo Clinic (2021), epilepsy is defined as “a central nervous system (neurological) disorder in which brain activity becomes abnormal, causing seizures or periods of unusual behavior, sensations, and sometimes loss of awareness.” It is often accompanied by a temporary confusion, a staring spell, uncontrollable jerking movements of the arms and legs, and sometimes even loss of consciousness or awareness (Mayo Clinic, 2021).

Methods of Revelation:

There were three main modes of revelation used to convey messages to the Prophets of Allah (swt), as explained in the book, The Qur’an and Hadith by Sayyid Saeed Akhtar Rizvi (Rizvi, 1994). The first mode was inspiration in the form of true dreams, or Prophetic inspirations. The second consisted of revelations sent from ‘behind a curtain’ which could be done in various different ways. The story of Prophet Musa (a) is one that exemplifies such a mode of revelation. There are accounts in the Bible as well as in the Quran that report God speaking to Prophet Musa from behind a burning bush, and the Prophet feeling intense fear that caused him to fall down at the sound of The Voice (Aziz, 2019). The third and final mode of revelation, being the easiest and clearest form, took place through an angel (Jibrail). 

“It is not possible for a man that he should receive the message of Allah except either by inspiration or from behind a curtain, or Allah sends angels and the angels bring the message of Allah, whatever Allah wishes. Verily Allah is High, Omniscient”

The Quran 42:51.

Revelations to the Prophet (s) and Accusations of Epilepsy:

Of all the different modes of revelation mentioned above, the hardest form experienced is said to be the revelations from ‘behind a curtain.’ For Prophet Muhammad (s) there would sometimes be a continuous high-pitched ringing that reached his ears, causing him to go through physical and emotional discomfort before he received the revelation and was able to convey it to others.

Some accounts state that the Prophet (s) “would be gripped by a feeling of pain, and in his ears, there would be a noise like the reverberation of a bell. Even on a very cold day, the bystanders would see great pearls of sweat on his forehead as the revelation descended upon him” (Aziz, 2019). 

It was accounts like these, as well as others, that noted symptoms such as the “unconsciousness” of the Prophet (s) during these revelations, that led some to suspect the presence of epilepsy. However, one must note that after an episode of unconsciousness in epilepsy, the individual often “does not know what has happened. Sometimes, he is confused, forgets where he is, and wanders away in an attack of loss of memory (amnesia or epileptic fugue)” (Rizvi, 1994).

When comparing such behaviour to the case of the Prophet (s), in claiming that he was a victim of epilepsy, we overlook the fact that after going through these moments of extreme discomfort or the so-called ‘epilepsy attacks,’ he (s) always gave the most eloquent and to-the-point answers concerning the situation he was in or the question he was asked prior to the revelation (Rizvi, 1994). 

One might wonder, where did these accusations stem from in the first place? It is believed that these accusations against the Prophet (s) were a result of religious and political propaganda that sought to discredit him and his divine mission by spreading dread and falsehood about him (Aziz, 2019). It is interesting to further note that the effects the Prophet (s) endured during the time of revelation were not unique to him alone. Rather, they were common to other Israelite Prophets as well – those against whom such claims of epilepsy are not made (Rizvi, 1994).

It is therefore clear that the Prophet (s) did not suffer from epilepsy. Rather, the intense discomfort that he went through during the moments of revelation was a natural reaction to the transferral of a divine message – from a divine entity to a finite human being (Aziz, 2019). The Quran also confirms the validity of the statements of the Prophet (s) by saying, “He [i.e. the Prophet] does not speak of his own desire, it is not but a revelation revealed” (The Quran, 53:3-4).


Aziz, H. (2019). Did Prophet Mohammad (PBUH) have epilepsy? A neurological analysis. 

Epilepsy & Behavior, 103, 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.yebeh.2019.106654 

Mayo Clinic. (2021). Epilepsy. Retrieved from https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/epilepsy/symptoms-causes/syc-20350093 

Rizvi, S.S.A. (1994). The Qur’an and Hadith | Al-Islam.org. Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. 

Why did the Prophet (s) marry Zaynab, the ex-wife of his adopted son?

At the command of Allah (swt), the Prophet (s) married Zaynab bint Jahsh, the former wife of his adopted son Zayd bin Haritha. This marriage served to remove the taboo of marrying the ex-wife of one’s adopted son. The Quran says:

When Zayd set her free, We gave her in marriage to you so that the believers would not face difficulties about the wives of their adopted sons when they are divorced.

Holy Quran (33:37).

It was important for the Prophet (s) as a guide and leader, to break the traditions of the period of jahiliyah (i.e. pre-Islam) regarding adoptive relationships.1 Pre-Islamic adoption traditions were much like those held in the modern West – they included the complete integration of a child into its adoptive family, such that the child even carried on the name of the adoptive family. This is not the case in Islam. Through adoption the blood relationship between the child and its blood family does not end, nor is a blood relationship created between the child and the adoptive family. This means that the rules of inheritance, hijab, and marriage do not change between adoptive family and child.2

Note: In no way should the establishment of these formalities detract from the bond between adoptive parent and child. Adoption is highly regarded in Islam for the opportunity it affords to orphans, amongst other reasons. In the example of the Prophet(s)’s relationship to Zayd bin Haritha, the Prophet (s) was known to express his love for Zayd openly and on the occasion of Zayd’s death he mourned as though he had lost his own son.

The Marriages of Zaynab bint Jahsh

Interestingly, both of Zaynab bint Jahsh’s marriages (to Zayd bin Harith and the Prophet (s)) served to break social restraints on marriage. Her first marriage crossed social class boundaries and her second marriage crossed both a taboo relationship and social class boundaries.1

Being the granddaughter of Abdul Muttalib, Zaynab was considered to be of noble lineage whereas Zayd bin Harith was only a freed slave. But the Prophet (s) personally went to Zaynab’s house to ask for her consent to marry Zayd. At first she was inclined to decline the proposal, out of her bias against the difference in class. However, Allah revealed the following verse to the Prophet which caused her to change her mind:

“It is not for a believing man or a believing woman, when Allah and His Messenger have decided a matter, that they should [thereafter] have any choice about their affair. And whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger has certainly strayed into clear error” .

Holy Quran (33:36)

Out of obedience to Allah (swt) and the Prophet (s), Zaynab, a lady of noble descent, married Zayd, a freed slave of the Prophet (s). However, later their marriage dissolved. The reasoning behind their divorce has not been made clear.

Allah (swt) then revealed the verse (33:37, see above) arranging for the marriage of Zaynab to the Holy Prophet. In this way the custom that declared the marriage of a man to the former wife of his adoptive son as a shameful was abolished. In marrying Zaynab, the Holy Prophet also sought to remove the stigma in marrying the former wife of a freed slave, another marriage across social status. Thus, two taboos were broken with the second marriage of Zaynab.

When people began to besmirch the name of the Prophet on the basis of his marriage to the former wife of his adopted son, Allah revealed the following verse to him: 

“Muhammad is not the father of [any] one of your men, but [he is] the Messenger of Allah and last of the Prophets. And ever is Allah, of all things, Knowing”.

Holy Quran (36:40).

This reinforced the fact that the relationship between the Prophet (s) and Zayd was not of a biological father and son, but of adoptive father and son and therefore, different rules applied to that relationship. 

An Alternative Narrative

It is said that once the Prophet (s) entered Zayd’s house and came across Zaynab in a state of undress and upon seeing her, he desired her. Zayd came to know of this interaction and out of respect for the Prophet, chose to divorce Zaynab so that the Prophet could marry her.


a) The Qur’an very clearly states that the Prophet’s (s.) intention in marrying Zaynab was to ensure “that the believers would not face difficulties about the wives of their adopted sons when they are divorced” (33:37).

b) Prior to her marriage to Zayd, Zaynab offered to marry the Prophet (s). At this time, the Prophet refused her and persuaded her to marry Zayd instead. At the time of her divorce to Zayd, Zaynab was over the age of 50. It stands to reason that she was far more attractive in her youth when the Prophet personally asked for her consent in marriage to Zayd. If physical attraction was the sole reason behind the marriage of the Prophet (s) and Zaynab, why did the Prophet not propose to her in the first place? In doing so, he would have also avoided challenging a societal norm. 

c) When Zayd approached the Prophet regarding his trouble with Zaynab, a verse of advice for Zayd was revealed to the prophet: “Say to the person to whom you and Allah have granted favour: ‘Keep your wife and have fear of Allah’” (33:37). In this verse Allah admonishes Zayd to stay with Zaynab and the delivery of such advice by the Prophet (s) shows the investment that he put into the marriage of Zayd and Zaynab.

d) To accuse the Prophet (s) of entering Zayd’s home unannounced and without permission goes against the verse of Quran which says O you who believe! Do not enter houses other than your own houses until you have asked permission and saluted their inmates This is better for you that you may be mindful. But if you do not find any one therein, then do not enter them until permission is given to you And if it is said to you: Go back, then go back This is purer for you And Allah is Cognizant of what you do (24:27-28). How would it be possible for the Prophet (s) to contradict the verses of the Quran? Such type of behaviour is also not consistent with the verse which praises the character of the Prophet (s) – and indeed you possess a great character (68:4).

A Hadith on the Prophet’s Belief on Marriage

It is apt to conclude here with a tradition of the Prophet (s) pertaining to the selection of a spouse. It is related that the Prophet of Islam (s) said, Do not marry a woman for the following four reasons: Wealth, beauty, ancestry and lust. It is obligatory upon you to marry a woman on account of her religion (Kanzul Ummal, H#44602)


Ali. S. Marriage, A Gift for the Youth. Retrieved from                                                                                        https://www.al-islam.org/articles/marriage-gift-youth-sajid-ali

Rizvi, S.M. (1990). Adoption in Islam. Shama newsletter. Retrieve from                                                              https://www.al-islam.org/articles/adoption-islam-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi

Subhani. J. (1984). The Message. Islamic Seminary Publications. Retrieved from https://www.al-islam.org/the-message-ayatullah-jafar-subhani/chapter-36-events-fifth-year- migration

Additional References

Rizvi. S.A. (1988). Slavery From Islamic And Christian Perspectives. Vancouver Islamic Educational     Foundation. https://www.al-islam.org/slavery-allamah-sayyid-saeed-akhtar-rizvi/slaves-history-     islam

Rizvi. S.A. (2015). The Life of Muhammed The Prophet. Darul Tabligh North America.         https://www.al-islam.org/life-muhammad-prophet-sayyid-saeed-akhtar-rizvi/marriages-holy-   prophet

Rizvi. S.A. (1971). Muhammad is the Last Prophet. Bilal Muslim Mission of Tanzania. https://www.al-islam.org/muhammad-the-last-prophet-sayyid-akhtar-rizvi/introduction

Was Prophet Muhammad (s) literate?

An example of misunderstanding amongst Muslims is the question of whether the Prophet was literate or not. This misunderstanding is caused by allegations against the Prophet by his enemies. A religion that gives so much importance to knowledge –  many verses of Quran and Hadith of the Ma’sumin (a) stress the importance of seeking knowledge – would not have as its leader and propagator a man who was illiterate. 

Reading and writing are tools used to acquire knowledge and understanding. They are not goals in themselves but a means to a goal – knowledge. Since Allah has given the Prophet the required knowledge, therefore there is no need of such tools because the knowledge is already had. This kind of knowledge is called intuitive knowledge and has to include the ability to read and write if needed.

The Prophet achieved the highest level of knowledge in the history of mankind because he was taught by Allah, who told him in the Holy Qur’an 4:113,

And Allah taught you everything which you did not know”.

The Prophet’s mind was untarnished by human teaching; he was a man who received his knowledge from God alone.

As Ayatullah Mutahhari states; One of the highlights in the life of the great Muhammad (s) is the fact that he was untrained and unschooled (ie, he did not attend any school). He had not been trained by any teacher and neither he had acquainted himself with any written work. It is important to note that unschooling does not equate to illiteracy and ignorance. The Prophet (s) was gifted divine knowledge through miracle. According to some scholars he knew how to read and write, not through learning from a teacher, but through divine inspiration and miracle. 

According to Ayatullah Mutahhari, the Prophet (s) did not read and write, as he would then have been accused of copying the Quran from another source. Allah talks about this in the Quran – And you did not read before it any book, nor did you write one with your right hand, for then those, who say untrue things, could have doubted (29:48). This verse clearly proves that the Prophet did not read or write anything before the Quran.

What is clear is that the one who never learnt from any human teacher, presented this universally recognized truth – the Qur’an – which was never revealed to the great Apostles of the past, and could not have been possible without the direction and will of the Almighty. It is extraordinary that a man who was never taught by a mortal being was given the most eloquent Book, which propelled movements calling for science and free thought. 

The belief in an ‘Unschooled’ Prophet rooted in an interpretation of the word ‘Ummi’ 

The Quran describes the Prophet (s) as ummi, sparking the debate about the literacy of the Prophet (s). 

It says; those who follow the Apostle, the untaught Prophet . . . (7:157) and So have faith in Allah and His Apostle, the untaught prophet, who has faith in Allah and His words, and follow him so that you may be guided. (7:158).

It would be useful to first outline the three main interpretations of the word ummi:

  1. Unschooled or unacquainted with writing: Those who favour this interpretation say the word ummi is related to umm, meaning mother. The word ummi refers to a person who, by birth, is familiar with human written work and knowledge; it could also be related to the word ummah, i.e. who observes the customs of the majority, for the majority of people did not know about writing (Mutahhari). 
  2. An Inhabitant of Umm al-Qura: The association of the word Umm al-Qura with Makkah. The Qur’anic verse 92 of Surah Al-An’am refers to Makkah as Umm al-Qura. The word Umm al-Qura signifies “centre of villages”, where any point which serves as a centre of villages is known as Umm al-Qura. 
  3. Arab Polytheists who were not the followers of any revealed Book: In other words, the ummi also refers to the people who were not “Ahlul Kitab”. In this sense, the term does not mean that they were illiterate; it just means that they were not from the “Ahlul Kitab”.

To state that the Prophet (s) was ummi – in the sense that he did not read or write anything during his lifetime, is a proof that the Quran is indeed the word of God and a living miracle. When the Quran was revealed, its eloquence and depth of contents bewildered the people. Its teachings have triggered great learning and is the code of life for over billions of Muslims around the world. We should not misunderstand the word ummi as illiterate because the Prophet(s) had intuitive knowledge and his teacher was Allah Himself.


Mutahhari, M. (n.d.). The Unschooled Prophet. Retrieved from                                                              https://www.al-islam.org/printpdf/book/export/html/19228

Shaykh Muslim Bhanji. Authenticity of the Qur’an. Retrieved from 

Was it the case that our Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) was illiterate? What is the difference between illiterate and unlettered? (2019, November 25). Retrieved from
https://www.al-islam.org/ask/was-it-the-case-that-our-prophet-muhammad-pbuh-was- %09illiterate-what-is-the-difference-between-illiterate-and-unlettered

What are some proofs that the Prophet (s) received direct revelation from Allah and was not speaking on his own or borrowing content from previous religions?

There is much evidence to support the claim that the Qur’an did not come from the Prophet’s own words, but rather from divine revelation. There are various scientific, historical, and logical arguments to support this claim. 

The Qur’an mentions a number of scientific observations that, while not understood during the time of the Prophet (s), are known to be verified facts today. This suggests that the Prophet (s) could not have come up with them himself. One example is when the Qur’an describes astrophysical phenomena, such as that the heavens and Earth were joined together before being separated (21:30), and that planets and/or stars initially existed in the form of a smoky substance (41:11). These observations were only recognized more recently when scientists discovered that all physical matter began as a singularity (the “Big Bang”), and that stars were formed from bits of gas and dust that clumped together densely. The discovery of these phenomena was not obvious, and required extensive experimentation to prove. Another scientific anecdote in the Qur’an that is described in detail is the formation of an embryo. The Qur’an very visually describes how an embryo “clings” to the womb and how it develops bone upon flesh (23:14, 96:2, 22:5), which are details that were not well-understood until later in the nineteenth century (Bhanji, 2014).

The Qur’an also contains a number of verses with non-trivial predictions, many of which ended up coming true. None of the preictions have been false either, though some are still yet to come to fruition. One example was the prediction of the comeback of Rome against Persia. In 615 AD, the Persians attacked the Roman empire and had an important victory, but a chapter in the Qur’an was revealed addressing this victory with the prediction that the Romans would actually triumph over the Persians in a few years. In less than 10 years, this prophecy was fulfilled (Bhanji, 2014). Another example was the prediction in Surah Lahab (#111) of the Qur’an, that one of the Prophet’s uncles, Abu Lahab, would continue to reject Islam until the day of his death. Interestingly, all it would take to falsify the Qur’an was for Abu Lahab to accept Islam, yet he did not do so. All historians agree that he died as an obstinate disbeliever (Bhanji, 2014). The fact that there are predictions in the Qur’an that have not been falsified is another piece of evidence supporting the claim of Qur’anic divinity. 

The Prophet also could not control when he would receive a revelation. In fact, there are multiple scenarios where people expected a revelation from the Prophet, and the Prophet could not produce it for them even though it made him look very discredited that he was unable to do so. In the example of the revelation of Surah Kahf (#18), the Prophet was asked by a group of Jewish rabbis to answer three difficult questions, and the Prophet promised that he would provide answers the following day. However, multiple days went by without any revelation in response, casting doubt on the Prophet’s authenticity amongst the people. He finally received the revelation of Surah Kahf, which answered the rabbis’ questions, fifteen days later (Mainiyo, 2015). A similar account, surrounding the revelation of Surah Duha (#93), tells us that there were segments of time where the Prophet received no revelation at all, causing people to mock and jeer at his prophethood claims (Al-Islam.org, 2020). After a period of time, Surah Duha was revealed as a comfort to the Prophet, assuring him that God had not forsaken him by leaving him in silence (93:3-8). This proves that the Prophet (s) did not make up verses whenever he wanted to. 

The Prophet was known not to have read or written anything before the Quran. Yet the Qur’an contains detailed historical records, which suggest that the writer must have been well-read. It is reported that once, two Jewish scholars approached the Prophet and asked him to answer the question of how the family of Yaqub ended up in Egypt from Syria, as a test of his prophetic knowledge. In response, the chapter of ‘Yusuf’ was revealed, which contained a detailed account of Prophet Yusuf’s life and how his family migrated.  

The eloquence of the Qur’an stands out starkly from all other literature, spoken or written, during the time of the Prophet. The Qur’an is also known for its deeply eloquent poetry, which could not be replicated by even the best of poets. During the Prophet’s time, poetry was prominent amongst the Arabs and played a significant role in their lives. There are numerous examples of Arab poets who converted to Islam just based on hearing the beauty of the Qur’an’s recitation (Lings, 2006). The Qur’an itself also argues that it was not conceived by any human, when it challenges: 

Or do they say [about the Prophet], “He invented it?” Say, “Then bring forth a surah like it and call upon [for assistance] whomever you can besides Allah, if you should be truthful” (10:38).

This was an open challenge that remains open to this day. The Qur’an is often referred to as untranslatable – the levels of meaning cannot be rendered into another language, even Persian or other Islamic languages that were influenced by Qur’anic Arabic. This is expressed by translators of the Qur’an, such as A.J. Arberry, who said: 

“The rhetoric and rhythm of the Arabic of the Koran are so characteristic, so powerful, so highly emotive, that any version whatsoever is bound in the nature of things be but a poor copy of the glittering splendour of the original” (Nasr et al., 2015, xxiii). 

If despite all these proofs, if someone still believes the Prophet (s) made up the verses then an important question to ask is why would he do that? What motivated him to fabricate verses and attribute them to a higher Being? If it was for wealth and power, the Quraysh of Makka offered him both and he rejected them. On the contrary he and his followers suffered poverty and hardship. If it was for leadership, the Prophet (s) remained a simple man content with the basic necessities till the end of his life. It was only after his death that Islam spread far and wide.  

The scientific, historical, and logical arguments presented support that the Prophet could not have written the Qur’an by himself, nor with the help of anyone else, during his time. 


Al-Islam.org. (2020). The Contents of Surah Duha. Ahlul Bayt Digital Islamic Library Project. https://www.al-islam.org/enlightening-commentary-light-holy-Qur’an-vol-20/surah-duha-chapter-93 

Bhanji, M. (2014). Authenticity of the Qur’an. Tabligh Centre of KSI Jamat. https://www.al-islam.org/authenticity-Qur’an-shaykh-muslim-bhanji 

Lings, M. (2006). Muhammad: His Life Based on the Earliest Sources. Inner Traditions. 

Mainiyo, A. S. (2015, February 7). Relevance of Surah Al-Kahf in the Search of Knowledge. Journal of Research in Humanities and Social Science3(1), 42-49. http://www.questjournals.org/jrhss/papers/vol3-issue1/F314249.pdf 

Nasr, S. H., Dagli, C. K., Dakake, M. M., Lumbard, J. E. B., & Rustom, M. (2015). The Study Qur’an: A New Translation and Commentary. Harper One. 

The Qur’an is “Hakeem” (Surah Yasin) – Nouman Ali Khan – Part 1. YouTube, uploaded by Qur’an Weekly, 19 June 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-vDB94Axwg 

Did the Prophet (s) impose Islam on people? 

The Prophet (s) did not impose Islam on people, and there is evidence to support this. Firstly, the Qur’an itself states that the Prophet’s mission was not to force people to believe, but to only warn them of God’s message. In chapter 88, verses 21-22 it says: “Therefore, you remind (them), for you are only a reminder; you are not a watcher over them.” Furthermore, there are examples in the Qur’an where the Prophet dealt with people who refused to accept Islam, and the Prophet was instructed to leave these people be, replying with, “For you is your religion, and for me is my religion (109:6).” There is also a famous verse in the Qur’an that states that “There is no compulsion in religion; verily the guidance has become clear from the error… (2:256)” meaning that no one should be forced to accept the religion. Instead, the Qur’an clearly describes how to bring someone towards Islam: “Invite all to the Way of your Lord with wisdom and kind advice, and only debate with them in the best manner” (16:125). If the Prophet followed his own preaching, then based on these Qur’anic examples alone, he could not have imposed Islam on people without contradicting it himself.

During the first thirteen years of his prophethood in Makka, the Prophet was just starting to preach Islam and there was heavy persecution against new Muslims. There was no way to force Islam on people – there were only a few followers and social pressure was in the direction of rejecting Islam (Rizvi, 2019). In the last eleven years of the Prophet’s life, the Prophet was invited to Madina by the settlers there, who had already heard and accepted the message of Islam. They did not need the Prophet’s convincing to join Islam, as they were already Muslim and were the ones reaching out to the Prophet themselves in the first place. Notably, when the Prophet accepted their invitation and moved to Madina, not all the settlers wanted to embrace Islam. There was a minority Jewish community in Madina that was content with its own religion and did not want to convert. Records show that rather than force these people to abandon their religion, the Prophet made a pact with this community allowing it to practise its religion freely and outlined an agreement of each other’s rights in the new regime (Rizvi, 2019). This agreement is recorded in history as the Charter of Madina. 

The majority of the expansion of the Muslim state took place after the Prophet’s death, and this occurred under the rule of Abu Bakr, Umar ibn al-Khattab, and Uthman bin Affan between 630-700 CE (Rizvi, 2019). During this time, the lands of Iraq, Syria, Palestine, Egypt, and parts of Persia were conquered by the Arabs, and many historians argue that military force was used to impose Islam upon the citizens of these lands. The truth is that though force was used to claim territorial and political leadership, force was never used to impose Islam on the inhabitants of the newly claimed lands. There is a distinction between the expansion of the Muslim/Arab empire and the expansion of the religion of Islam, that historians confuse as one and the same (Rizvi, 2019). Islam was both a faith and a political order. It had a total framework for state and society. The spread of Islam and the spread of state institutions became intertwined. Hence the confusion regarding what was being spread. 

The success and threat of Islam’s spread surprised other religions, and a narrative emerged of the brutality of Muslims. Though this narrative is not entirely unfounded – there were documented instances of forced conversions and instances where some Muslims disregarded their faith by behaving cruelly – it must have been convenient for Europeans to explain the rapid success of the Muslim/Arab empire using this narrative (Munir, 2018).  

Muslim conquerors were effective rulers, building rather than destroying societies. In many places, local communities found Muslim rulers more tolerant than the Byzantian and Persian empires they had lived under. (Esposito, 1988). Treaties were common in outlining the rights of citizens in the conquered lands, allowing them to practise their religion freely in return for paying a tax to the caliph’s treasury (Rizvi, 2019). Those who paid the tax were known as the ‘protected ones’ (dhimmi). It can be argued that the payment of a tax was more preferable to Islamic rulers than conversion of its people to Islam. These taxes, unlike the collection of Islamic Zakat and Khums payments, could be used by the government at their discretion. Thus, there was a possibility of motivation for co-operation with people of other religions rather than getting them to convert. 

As Islam penetrated new areas, people were offered three options: (1) conversion, that is, to become a full member of the Muslim community with its rights and duties; (2) acceptance of Muslim rule as protected people and payment of a poll tax (jizya); (3) battle if neither the first nor the second option was accepted. The astonishing expansion of Islam resulted not only from armed conquest but also from the first two peaceful options. (Esposito, 1988). 

There are many variables that played a role in the spread of Islam as a religion. As Muslims conquered more territory, it is natural that exposure to, and awareness of, Islam grew. As Ira M. Lapidus writes: “most conversions to Islam were voluntary” (Lapidus, 1988, 243-244). Traders and missionaries, as well as ordinary members of the Muslim society helped people appreciate the value of Islamic teachings, sometimes just through their own example. 

There have been countries where Muslims ruled for hundreds of years yet the population remained significantly non-Muslim, such as India and Greece (Rizvi, 2019). Likewise, there are countries now, like the United States, where Islam is one of the fastest-spreading religions though Muslims never had a political or imposing presence (Rizvi, 2019). Hence, it is too simplistic to say that Islam spread by force, and equate the dominance of Arab territory with the dominance of Islam. 


Lapidus, I. M. (1988). A History of Islamic Societies. Cambridge: CUP. 

Munir, H. (2018, May 12). Did Islam Spread by the Sword? A Critical Look at Forced Conversions. Yaqeen Institute. https://yaqeeninstitute.org/hassam-munir/did-islam-spread-by-the-sword-a-critical-look-at-forced-conversions/#ftnt1 

Rizvi, S. M. (2019). How did Islam spread? – By sword or by conversion? Al-Ma’arif Publications. https://www.al-islam.org/articles/how-did-islam-spread-sword-or-conversion-sayyid-muhammad-rizvi  

Esposito, John L. (1988) Islam the Straight Path. Oxford University Presshttp://www-personal.umich.edu/~vika/TeachPort/islam00/esposito/chapt2.html 

What is the meaning of the infallibility of the Prophet (s)

Within the Muslim Ummah there are varying conclusions as to the infallibility of the Holy Prophet (s). There are some schools that believe that the Prophet (s) was affected by worldly desires and sins. Others believe that he was an infallible, like the Prophets before him, and therefore would not ever sin. In this essay, we are taking the Twelver Shi’i position – that the Holy Prophet (s) was an infallible being, as perfected by, and in accordance with, Allah (swt)’s command. 

Before discussing the infallibility of the Holy Prophet (s), one should identify what this term means. Al-Fadil al-Miqdad, a ranking Shi’i theologian, presents a thorough definition when he says,  

“Infallibility is a trait bestowed by Allah to a legally accountable individual (mukallaf) in such a way that the presence of this trait negates in this individual any motive to disobey or commit a sin while he remains capable of doing so. This bestowal is a consequence of the person’s acquisition of a moral habit (malakah) of refraining from sin. In addition, this person is aware of the reward earned through obedience, and the punishment incurred through disobedience, and is apprehensive of forgetfulness and failing to perform the better of two praiseworthy acts.” (Tehrani, 2020) 

Given this definition, we can understand that the Prophet (s) was human, but his connection to Allah (swt), and his conviction in the Hereafter was such that he did not desire to sin. If the Prophet (s) was fallible there could be the following results; 

1)  His mistakes would lead others to sin as they would see that their guide himself did not refrain from sinning.  

2) He would lose people’s trust. By seeing him sin people would not be able to trust him completely. This would affect their acceptance of his message of Islam, and essentially, his claim to prophethood. 

In the first case, prophethood would become a cause for the misguidance of people. In the second case, prophethood would be without much purpose. Far be it from Allah (swt) to either misguide or act without purpose (Tehrani, 2020).  

Infallibility is essential for the prophets and messengers because their job is not only to convey the divine scriptures of Allah but to also lead and guide humanity towards the right path. Therefore, they must be role models and perfect examples for all of mankind (Qazwini, IECOC, 2000) 

Many verses of the Quran praise the Prophet (s) and command believers to follow and obey him. No exceptions are made to state that Muslims should not follow him on occasions when he is wrong. These verses include; 

  • Whoever obeys the Messenger has obeyed Allah (Surah Nisa, no.4, verse 80)  
  • We did not send any Messenger but to be obeyed by Allah’s permission (Surah Nisa, no.4, verse 64)
  • your companion has neither gone astray, nor is amiss (Surah Najm, no.53, verse 2)
  • Indeed, you [Prophet Muhammad] guide to a straight path (Surah Shura, no.42, verse 52)

The Quran also says; 

  • There is certainly an excellent example for you in the Apostle of Allah (Surah Ahzab, no.33, verse 21) 

God would not give humans an example of a person who sins. Rather, Prophet Muhammad’s perfect examples give people guidelines of how to stay away from sinning.  

Therefore, given the guidance from the Qur’an, one can conclude that the Prophet was sent to be obeyed and is the best example for mankind. He would have to be free of sins to fulfill that role rightfully.


Hadavi Tehrani, A. (2020, February 04). Faith and Reason: Retrieved from https://www.al-islam.org/faith-and-reason

Qazwini, Sayyid Mustafa. Inquiries about Shia Islam. IECOC, 2000https://www.al-islam.org/inquiries-about-shia-islam-sayyid-moustafa-al-qazwini/infallibility 

What is the reason behind the Prophet (s)’s many marriages?

Based on the fact that he was polygamous, the Holy Prophet Muhammad (s) is sometimes accused of being a womaniser. To understand this better, one must first define the term polygamy. Polygamy has been defined by the Merriam-Webster dictionary as a “marriage in which a spouse of either sex may have more than one mate at the same time.” The discussion at hand specifically revolves around the idea of a man having multiple wives. This is a type of polygamy known as polygyny (Merriam-Webster).  

While it is true that Prophet Muhammad (s) was polygynous, it is important to note that polygamy is a concept that existed long before the time of that Holy Prophet (s). This is evident in both the Bible and Qur’an. The Bible states: “Esau went to Ishmael and took as his wife, besides the wives he had, Mahalath the daughter of Ishmael, Abraham’s son, the sister of Nebaioth”. Similarly, many prophets before the Holy Prophet (s) were known to have multiple wives, such as Prophet Abraham and Prophet Jacob. Therefore, it is clear that the concept of polygamy was not introduced by Islam and was not unheard of during the time of the Holy Prophet (s).  

The Islamic ruling of a man being allowed four wives at a time was a means of reforming a pre-existing system. Not only was a limit put on the number of wives a man could have, but conditions were set for marrying a second wife (Rizvi, 2019). Therefore, Islam does not by endorse the act of womanising – as is often perceived – rather, it prevents people from engaging in it! The Islamic ruling regarding polygyny forced the practice of polygyny to be controlled. 

The question still remains: Even if the Prophet (s) followed the Islamic rulings of polygyny, what was the reason for his multiple marriages? Were these marriages based on desire and lust? 

We should keep in mind that modern times have seen a huge paradigm shift of marriage and has influenced our thinking of a time when the norms were completely different. Marriage in the past was not for romantic purposes. It was an institution that served a wider function in society, used for alliances, social co-operation etc. Only in the last couple of centuries have love marriages become the norm. Of course, love and affection are an important part of marriage and fall into place when two partners are committed to their marital relationship. However, the social norms of the modern world have changed drastically from historical times. 

At the age of 25, the Prophet (s) married Khadija, the daughter of Khuwaylid (Majlisi, 2010). During the subsequent 24 years and 1 month of their marriage, the Holy Prophet (s) was not married to anyone else (Rizvi, 2019). It was only after the death of his first wife that he remarried. If the Prophet (s) was driven by lust and desire, he would have remarried sooner when he was much younger. It is clear that he loved Lady Khadija (a) a great deal and must have had other reasons for marrying his other wives.  

As explained by Sayyid Muhammad Rizvi (2019) in his book, The Concept of Polygamy & 
The Prophet’s Marriages, the reasons for the Prophet (s)’s marriages after the demise of Lady Khadija (a) can be summarised in the following table. 

Reason for Marriage Women the Prophet Married for this Reason 
To free slaves Lady Juwayriyyah, the daughter of al-Harith:  
The battle of Banu Mustaliq had resulted in Muslims taking 200 families of the Banu Mustaliq as slaves. By the Prophet (s) freeing and marrying Lady Juwayriyyah (who was one of them), the rest of the tribe was now related to the Prophet (s). Out of courtesy to the Holy Prophet (s), the Muslims freed the rest of the tribe, who in turn converted to Islam.
To create relationships and alliances with the Muslims  Lady Aisha, the daughter of Abu Bakr:
To create an alliance with Abu Bakr so that he would support the Muslims in confrontation against enemies of Islam. 
Lady Hafsa, the daughter of Umar ibn Khattab: 
To create an alliance with Umar ibn Khattab so that he would support the Muslims in confrontation against enemies of Islam. 
Lady Umm Habiba, the daughter of Abu Sufyan: 
To protect her from her father, Abu Sufyan, who was a great enemy of Islam, as well as to guide Abu Sufyan. Unfortunately, Abu Sufyan was not impacted through this marriage. 
Lady Safiyyah, the daughter of Huyaiy ibn Akhtab:  
To create ties with the Jewish tribe of Banu Nadhir, the tribe Lady Safiyyah was originally from. 
To break common taboos in the society Lady Zaynab, the daughter of Jahsh: 
Lady Zaynab was the divorcee of the Prophet (s)’s adopted son, Zayd. In pre-Islamic Arabia, adopted children were considered to be the same as biological children. That is, the wife of an adopted son was the same as the wife of a biological son with whom marriage would be forbidden. To counter this un-Islamic practice, the Prophet (s) married Lady Zaynab.  More details on the marriage of the Prophet (s) to Lady Zaynab can be found here.
To protect and dignify widows Lady Sawdah, daughter of Zam‘ah* :
She returned to Makka after her husband died in Abyssinia. Her brother and father, who were in Makka, were enemies of Islam and therefore a danger to her. The Prophet (s) married her to protect her from her family.  
Lady Umm Salamah*:
Her husband passed away, leaving her as a single parent of a young child. Her marriage to the Prophet (s) was a source of support and dignity for her.  
Lady Zaynab bint Khuzaymah  
She was known to be a very generous person. After her husband was killed in the Battle of Uhud, the Prophet (s) married her to preserve her dignity when she faced difficult times herself.  
*both of the marriages with Lady Sawdad and Lady Umm Salamah also had the benefit of creating relations with some of the enemies of Islam. 
Honoring the request of those who wished to be a wife of the Prophet (s) Lady Maymunah, daughter of al-Harith:
After the death of her husband, she wanted to marry the Prophet (s) because she wanted the honour of being amongst the wives of the Prophet (s). The Prophet (s) accepted this request. 

It is important to note that some of these marriages were done for multiples of the aforementioned reasons. It is thus evident that the Prophet (s) remarried for sociopolitical reasons, not out of lust or desire. Lady Khadija was always the Prophet (s)’s most beloved wife and was never forgotten by him. Hence the argument that the Holy Prophet (s) was a womaniser because he was polygynous does not hold true.  


Al-Majlisi, M. (2010). Hayat al-Qulub (Vol. 2) (S. Rizvi, Trans.). Qum: Ansariyan Publications. 

Rizvi, S. M. (2019). The Concept of Polygamy & the Marriages of the Prophet (2nd ed.).  Al-Ma‘ãrif Publication