Muslims are reasonably happy with their fate in the afterlife because, on the judgment day, they do not have to answer Allah’s question: Why you did not believe in Muhammad and his message?
As a young Muslim, I occasionally tested some of my friends and asked them how would they respond if Allah rephrases the question as follows: Why did you believe Muhammad and his claims? Their responses were variable but were always preceded by a period of shock because they never thought of such possibility.
The continuous Islamic indoctrination causes various degrees of brain damage that narrows the horizon of imagination and makes reasoning a one direction process. There is a continuous flow of Islamic information from school classes to television programs and through all conceivable visual and aural inputs to the Muslim brain. Muslims’ minds do not have a chance to contemplate and reflect on that continuous flow of Islamic details. A simple rephrasing of a question can put the Islamic mind in jeopardy.
Muhammad and Gabriel
I often wondered about the events that took place in the cave of Hiraa on the first encounter between Muhammad and Gabriel. Again, this perfectly logical inquest is located in one of those no go areas that the Muslims minds do not visit. The events of Hiraa are surrounded by many un-answered questions, which I never dared to allow my Islamic mind to investigate.
Let us consider how Muhammad received the revelation from a purely Islamic point of view. Let us put aside all the doubts and accusations we may have about Muhammad and his conduct.
Muhammad had a habit of regularly disappearing from Mecca’s social life for a few weeks, which he used to spend in a cave in the mountain of Hiraa, just outside Mecca. One day, a stranger appeared to Muhammad in his cave and, without any introductions, ordered the illiterate Muhammad to read without even specifying what to read. This is how Muhammad later described the events to his wife Aysha (1):
"The angel caught me forcefully and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read and I replied, "I do not know how to read." Thereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it any more. He then released me and again asked me to read but again I replied, "I do not know how to read". Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me, and then released me and said: “ikraa bismi rabbika ....”(2)
Muhammad, overwhelmed with fear, obliged and went home shaken and traumatized.
Reflecting on that Islamic story, whoever that stranger was, he was impolite and disrespectful, hardly an angel at all. There is hardly any resemblance between this Gabriel and the one who looked after Muhammad in later years and treated him with all respect, like real angels do. Gabriel knew that he was talking to a prophet of a very high status, the most senior of all prophets. Muhammad was only second to Allah in this universe, and Gabriel knew that ‘fact’ very well, so what made him behave in such a rude way in that first encounter?
Muhammad went home in shock and spent the following few weeks in shivers and fears. His wife, Khadija, sought the help of Waraka, a relative and Christian priest, who immediately diagnosed the condition as a sign that Muhammad was going to be a prophet! And Khadija agreed with the diagnosis.
What made Waraka and Kadija be so convinced that Muhammad was destined to become a prophet? The available information about what took place in the cave did not describe an angel but a discourteous and abusive fellow with no signs of politeness; he even did not introduce himself and did not say “assalamu alaykum”- the Islamic greeting.
A few weeks after this incident, Muhammad did claim to be a prophet and started his campaign to convert the Arabs, and the world, to his religion. Islamically speaking, Islam is not optional but ‘a mandatory global religion’ which everyone must embrace. Consequently, from the Islamic point of view, when Muhammad communicated with Gabriel, he did so on behalf all of us, all mankind. Therefore, we have the right to ask:
- Why did Muhammad believe Gabriel? He did so without making any effort to verify the identity of the stranger.
- Even if that stranger claimed to be Gabriel and also claimed that he carried a message from Allah, would that be enough reason to believe him?
- Has the possibility that the stranger was a bogus, deceptive or misleading were all ruled out?
- The Arabs also believed in ‘jinn’ and other mythical characters, were those ruled out?
- What about if it was an alien who wanted to play a game? It is more likely for aliens to exist than angels.
…and the list of possibilities goes on...
When somebody comes to me and makes an extraordinary claim, I would certainly ask for evidence, and I think anybody would. Muhammad did not ask for any evidence; He foolishly took the man’s words for granted and believed him and wanted every one of us to believe him as well.
Some people may argue that it was up to Muhammad to believe or not, it was his personal and intellectual decision. We accept his personal and intellectual choice to believe anything and be a fool, because only fools believe extraordinary claims without asking for evidence. However, in this issue of Gabriel and revelation, Muhammad believed he was representing us, all those billions of mankind, so it wasn't a personal choice. He should have respected the the intelligence of the others and asked for a satisfactory evidence that he could take back to them. Muhammad failed to do any of that, he did not even try. The paradox is that he insisted on that we all must agree with him.
Islamically, mankind can only blame themselves if they do not believe Muhammad’s claims. Any doubt by anyone about any of Muhammad’s claims is a good enough reason for harsh punishment in life and after death. That is the way Islam is.
It looks as if we are just being unlucky because until Muhammad became a prophet, Allah had a very different policy about human doubts and evidence. Long before Muhammad, Allah used to accepts that humans may have doubts and may need evidence to satisfy their intelligence. Allah was happy to demonstrate His capabilities to those prophets who asked for evidence.
Allah and Ibrahim (Abraham)
Ibrahim was Allah’s friend. The Quran doesn't describe any other human as friend except Ibrahim (3). Being a friend, Ibrahim must have known many things about Allah including that well known ‘claim’ about creation.
Ibrahim’s friendship with Allah did not stop him from asking his friend to demonstrate to him that He truly can create things!
Allah, the all knowing, didn't know what motivated Ibrahim to ask such a question after all those years of friendship. ‘Don't you believe?’ asked Allah. ‘Yes, I do, but I want to make sure’ answered Ibrahim (4). Indeed, Allah obliged and treated his friend to a practical demonstration of creation.
That was Ibrahim, Allah’s friend and the father of prophets, still had doubts about Allah even while speaking to Him directly.
How does that contrast with Muhammad, who did not see anything in the cave, other than an impertinent stranger, and wanted all mankind to believe him ...or otherwise!
- Sahih Bukhari, vol. 1, book 1
- Q. 96:1 (translated: read in the name of your god...)
- Q.4:125: …For God did take Abraham for a friend). Ibrahim’s nickname in Arabic is Allah’s friend (khalilul rahman)
- Q.2: 260