The Life of Muhammad: The Seeker (1/3)

See also The Life of Muhammad: Holy Wars (2/3)

The Life of Muhammad, BBC Two’s new 3-part documentary on the founder of Islam, is an audacious and ambitious attempt to rescue the man, Muhammad, from the stereotypes engendered by 1400 years of history.  As an atheist, I’m interested in the formation of religions, and it doesn’t hurt to get some objective-ish information about one of the most contentious figures in religious history.  Needless to say, I wouldn’t trust anyone but the BBC to do this – their documentaries are the gold standard for public service television and justify the license fee all on their own.

The series is presented by Rageh Omaar, a practising Muslim.  His declared aim is this:

I want to examine his life and times and understand how they still affect today’s world, and whether they are force for good or evil.  I want uncover the real Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, peace be upon him.

Some people think they already have that answer, but I want to actually learn something on which to base my prejudices.  The Seeker covers the period from Muhammad’s birth in Mecca in 570 CE to the persecution of the new religion between 610 and 622.

At the time, the Arabian peninsula was populated by feuding polytheistic clans and tribes, each with their own gods and goddesses.  There was even an Allah in the mix.  Once a year they would come together in Mecca, where all their gods had a shrine in the Kaaba.  Now it’s the most sacred place in Islam, the orientation point for Muslims when praying.

There’s a lot to like and respect about the Muhammad presented in this documentary.  He was born in Mecca.  His father died when he was only an infant and his mother sent him off to live with a Bedouin tribe for 4 years, a common practice at the time.  Then, when he was 6, his mother died and he lived with another relative for 2 years, who also died, before being taken in by his uncle, a wealthy merchant.

Muhammad grew up to become a successful merchant, respected for his fairness and business acumen.  So much so that a wealthy older woman, Kadijha, asked him to marry her.  He accepted.  This was unheard of in Meccan society, and it says something about Muhammad’s attitude to women that runs completely counter to the misogynistic reputation he has today.  He was married to Kadijha, taking no other wives during that time, for 25 years.  They had 4 daughters.

When Muhammad began to ask the big questions about what his life was for, he would meditate in a cave on top of a mountain outside Mecca, often taking his family with him.  After his first revelation in 610, when he was terrified at hearing the voice of Allah and wondering if it was real, it was Kadijha who comforted him and validated the experience.  In fact, she became his first convert.  Putting aside what I think about people who hear voices in their heads, this was evidently a close-knit, loving family.

This new religion was based on Muhammad’s revelations, which were later written down as the Qur’an.  It was thoroughly inclusive, claiming an absolute equality among believers.  This didn’t sit well with the ruling clan in Mecca, the Quraysh, who persecuted Mohammad and his followers for 12 years until they left Mecca.  Some followers had already found asylum in Abyssinia, a Christian kingdom.  But Muhammad stayed in Mecca with his remaining followers, who at one point were forbidden to conduct business, marry other Meccans, trade, or buy food.

Then things got worse.  After 25 yeas of marriage his beloved Kadijha died, followed by his uncle, a clan leader, who had afforded some measure of protection.  His uncle was succeeded by someone hostile to Muhammad.  And there it ends for this week on a bit of a cliff-hanger.

I leaned a few other things as well.  The prohibition against depicting Muhammad comes from the idea that one should only have faith in Allah – Muhammad was merely the messenger.  So any picture risks becoming an idol.  Even buildings associated with Muhammad were removed to prevent them from becoming shrines.  The comparison between Christianity and Islam is striking, where the figure of Christ is a focus of worship, and a multiplicity of different creeds fight for dominance and ownership of the image.  Hence the rage against the Danish Cartoons.

Another thing I’m grateful for is some insight into The Satanic Verses controversy.  When Salman Rushdie’s book was published in 1988, it provoked enormous outrage in the Muslim world and earned the author a fatwa from the Ayatollah Khomeini.  I’m ashamed to say I haven’t read it yet.  Perhaps I will now.

The basis of The Satanic Verses is a story, not accepted by Muslims, that while Muhammad was walking round the Kaaba during the most intense persecution by the Quraysh, he received a revelation that he should compromise somewhat in his doctrines.  He later received another revelation that the first one had been whispered into his ears by Satan.  This, of course, blows away the authenticity of the revelations because if he got one wrong then how can you trust the others?

This is an excellent documentary, informative, balanced, and a fascinating glimpse into another world view.  It’s still on iPlayer, so catch it if you’re at all interested in what 1.5 billion people believe.  I’ll follow up with posts on the other 2 episodes.

31 thoughts on “The Life of Muhammad: The Seeker (1/3)

  1. What a great documentary – informative, balanced and fair with a broad range of expert comment, expertly constructed and edited, this is a really intelligent project. Looking forward to the next episodes

    • Yes, it is good to see the subject treated intelligently, rather than being tossed from one ideologue to another like a political football. This is why we need the BBC. Nobody else could produce a documentary like this.

      • It was produced by Muslims.
        BBC would not be allowed to enter Mecca with its diverse multicultural crew and staff.

  2. @Lance Murdoch

    The presenter certainly is Muslim and, judging purely by the credits, so are the writer and one of the executive producers. I’d think it very odd if an insightful documentary about Islam didn’t have significant input from Muslims. Does that add up to the blanket statement, “It was produced by Muslims”? I don’t think so – a lot of non-Muslims would have been involved in the production and editing.

    And it doesn’t present Muslim belief as a fact. Instead, the focus is on the factual events of Muhammad’s life, a different proposition altogether. When Rageh Omaar can’t prove something, he prefaces his statement with, “according to Muslim tradition.” More than that, every contentious claim that can bear more than one interpretation is tossed to Muslim, Jewish and Christian experts in the subject, who then argue their corner.

    So I think it’s as impartial as it can be, given the emotive subject.

  3. rageh and the makers are trying to come off as impartial by facing the criticisms of mohammed but it just comes off as they making excuses for his crimes. they throw the curve ball by having robert spencer on but people dont be fooled by this propaganda. they have tried to bring credibility to this paedophilic, plagaristic, slave keeping, genocidal maniac by bringing on a bunch of “conveniently WHITE” sympathisers (or political ass kissers) justifing his reasons whilst slowly trying to sweep all of his atrocities under the carpet. why didnt they have on the extemists who quote texts and hadiths? light viewing…. bad job bbc!

  4. This program is dissapointing from beginning to end:
    1) it is a totally one sided opinion of one Muslim journalist whose view of Islam was already formed.
    2) there are valid questions about Islams that were not properly discussed. Islams’ critics, like Trefkovic, R Spencer and Nonie Darwish, have been given not more than 10 seconds airtime. This program seemed more like a forum for pro-Islam speakers.
    3) Debatable are the origins of the Quran, the Hudabiya Treaty, the ‘divorced’ (as Omar put it) wife of Muhammad’s adopted son who became Muhammad’s wife, the last words of Muhammad, to name but a few.
    4) Overlooked were the 160 verses of the Q that promoted hate against the kafir (unbeliever cannot lead over a muslim, unbeliever is the worse of the worst etc), the ayas that reduce Muslim women as mere object and Muhammad’s cause of death (poisoned by a Jewess for Muhammad’s massacring of her clan) and of course his last words (”there shall be no two religions if Arabia”),
    3) IT is a classic reflection of how Muslims maintain their belief:: by accepting Islam uncritically.
    It is a shame that it has to be aired by a publicly funded broadcaster like the BBC. NO wonder then that at the moment BBC is being investigated for it’s partiality

  5. @jac & @Zainab Choudary

    You both seem to be covering the same sort of territory, so I’ll reply to you both. Firstly, as you must know from my blog, I’m an atheist. So I’m not interested in justifying religious belief of any kind. I do want to learn something about Islam because, unlike Christianity, I know very little about it. The opinions on offer tend to be incredibly biased, either one way or the other.

    Now then, do you suppose that if Richard Dawkins were to present a programme on Christianity, that I’d learn anything useful, that I’d get any closer to what Christians really believe? Who’s the man for that job? Quite obviously, Rowan Williams, Archbishop of Canterbury. As long as he included proper critical interventions where necessary. As Rageh Omaar has done. I suspect you both resent any positive interpretations of the accounts of Muhammad’s life, even though there are plenty of negative ones included in the programme.

    And jac, they do cover the atrocities and extremists. Speaking only for The Seeker and Holy Wars – I’ll be watching Holy Peace today – the introductory footage includes the Twin Towers and Muslims protesting on the street. Within the programmes, they have shown a suicide bomber justifying jihad, and an anti-Semitic preacher. Nor does it duck Muhammad’s decision to put the men of a Jewish tribe to death in Medina, after they plotted with the Quraysh to attack him from inside the city. If this is Islamic propaganda, then they clearly haven’t grasped the concept of propaganda aimed at a Western audience.

    Zainab, did you overlook the frequent use by Rageh Omaar of the phrase “according to Muslim tradition” when he couldn’t back up a claim with verifiable fact? This is the right way to present an argument – you quote your sources or admit a claim on tradition.

    As to the existence of ideas in the Qur’an and Hadith that the Age of Enlightenment finds stupid and repellent, the Bible has them too. I refer you to the Brick Testament (http://www.thebricktestament.com/) for some doozies. The point is that societies evolve, while religions are stuck in the mire of their sacred books, so this sort of cognitive dissonance is inevitable. Religions can only evolve by cherry picking what works in a modern society or reinterpreting what they find objectionable. Islam does this as well, on a country by country basis.

    Finally, to reiterate my aim in watching and writing about this series, I want to understand Islam from the point of view of its believers, as well as find out about the origin of Islam. If I wanted to just reinforce my prejudices, the readers’ comments in the Daily Mail Online would be perfectly adequate.

    • @poetmcgonagall
      sorry i havent read your blogs so am not aware of your standpoint.
      by the way im also a huge fan of richard dawkins and also of christopher hitchens, but they have a totally different platform from which they speak. when i watched this programme i didnt want to hear a debate if god exits nor about the the abrahamic lines islam came from. i dont think in a debate you can say because one religion has stupidities, its fine for others to have them. maybe youve assumed im christian? no this programme was supposed to be historical and factual. that is why i feel you cant have the filmakers and rageh who have a opinion to one extreme and compare with someone on the total opposite opinion like richard dawkins as suitable candidates to document this subject. you need someone in the middle who is not afraid to answer all questions fairly. i think it did that…. to a point, but i think it did it deceivingly! when the programme was trying to answer the criticism it lead to a justification. when it addressed a criticism it dindt just leave it at that. it selectively skipped some important points as stated by zainab and used the other points to justify certain actions. they said he couldnt have plagiarised the christian texts as he couldnt read. he wasnt deaf as well was he?and it seemed to me that they were trying to justify the killing of the jewish tribe as a military strategy. maybe you took away something different from that. the aisha bit was was pretty sad! they tried to show how loyal she was to her husband as if to justify the abuse he put on her. she didnt bear any children in her lifetime, probably because he destroyed the poor girls young womb (sorry, i know its not a fact, just an opinion!).

      yes they showed the suicide bomber (slightly) but why didnt they show the leaders these guys follow, ie anjam choudhry or omar bakri as you probably know these guys are never shy to to get on tv. like them or hate them, they are still highly revered within there community. these guys are the ones who quote actual religious texts with an immense amount of knowledge about the quran and the hadiths and they are open about these issues. and if these guys are wrong why not prove them wrong at this opportunity.

      • @jac

        “when i watched this programme i didnt want to hear a debate if god exits nor about the the abrahamic lines islam came from.”

        The documentary was about the life of Muhammad. Some discussion of Islam is necessary to do that, so there were a few mentions of the claim to an Abrahamic lineage. There was absolutely no debate about the existence of God.

        “i dont think in a debate you can say because one religion has stupidities, its fine for others to have them.”

        You certainly can when religions in general share certain characteristics, such as the reliance on a fixed, usually written, authority. This inevitably leads to cognitive dissonance as societies evolve and religions lag behind them.

        “maybe youve assumed im christian?”

        No, I used to post on the old, Wild West version of the Richard Dawkins website. It became clear that many atheists disliked Islam much more than any other religion.

        “no this programme was supposed to be historical and factual. that is why i feel you cant have the filmakers and rageh who have a opinion to one extreme and compare with someone on the total opposite opinion like richard dawkins as suitable candidates to document this subject. you need someone in the middle who is not afraid to answer all questions fairly. i think it did that…. to a point, but i think it did it deceivingly!”

        I don’t think that Rageh represents an extreme. Dawkins certainly does in the sense that he’s an avowed enemy of religion, while the Islamist Jihad types represent the other, in their absolute belief in God and the desire to impose it on everyone else. Rageh is very much the middle ground, a moderate Muslim committed to both his faith and the ideals of Western democracy. What kind of middle ground were you looking for? A dispassionate, dry, scholarly analysis would not have revealed how Muslims think about their religion – something that I wanted to know – and it would have contained its own bias.

        “when the programme was trying to answer the criticism it lead to a justification. when it addressed a criticism it dindt just leave it at that. it selectively skipped some important points as stated by zainab and used the other points to justify certain actions. they said he couldnt have plagiarised the christian texts as he couldnt read. he wasnt deaf as well was he?and it seemed to me that they were trying to justify the killing of the jewish tribe as a military strategy. maybe you took away something different from that. the aisha bit was was pretty sad! they tried to show how loyal she was to her husband as if to justify the abuse he put on her. she didnt bear any children in her lifetime, probably because he destroyed the poor girls young womb (sorry, i know its not a fact, just an opinion!).

        yes they showed the suicide bomber (slightly) but why didnt they show the leaders these guys follow, ie anjam choudhry or omar bakri as you probably know these guys are never shy to to get on tv. like them or hate them, they are still highly revered within there community. these guys are the ones who quote actual religious texts with an immense amount of knowledge about the quran and the hadiths and they are open about these issues. and if these guys are wrong why not prove them wrong at this opportunity.”

        Of course there’s some bias, but I think they did as well as they could under the circumstances – the need to squeeze a huge, contentious subject into a 3 hour documentary. I have to ask, did you read my posts on the other 2 programmes? They cover a lot of what you’re saying here.

        And I have to wonder if you watched the last programme, because there was extensive footage of terrorists and their apologists. Even an interview with a couple of Muslims who had gone to prison for supporting terrorism. The whole tone of that programme was against extremism. The producers obviously knew that the subject of Sharia law was a huge bone of contention, and they showed both sides while very clearly coming down on the side of democracy and moderation. One Muslim expert said they should embrace civil law, with its focus on human rights, because that embodied the essence of Sharia as propounded by Muhammad. Talk about bias! Loads of it there.

        My concern is that Islam, out of all the other religions, has become the most demonized in the West, ignoring the ordinary Muslims who try to live a good life according to their own beliefs. You know this logical fallacy?

        Some Muslims are terrorists
        Muhammad is a Muslim
        Therefore Muhammad is a terrorist

        It remains a fallacy, whatever religion you put in place of “Muslims” in the first line.

        I’m a equal opportunity critic of religion. I reserve the right to lambast them all, but when I see one getting a disproportionate amount of hate, ignorance, and propaganda directed against it, I tend to remember the 1930s and what happened in Germany. That started off in small ways, too. Not so far-fetched in modern times, either, when you think of the Balkans in the 1990s.

        My response is to want to learn more – so my criticisms carry some authority – and an impulse to defend the right of Muslims to freely practice their religion within the constraints of a democracy.

      • Islamic Tradition or Muslim tradition means Hadith, it is the recording of witnesses during the life time of the Prophet, and traditionally (orally) transmitted until they were later verified, classified as True, doubtful and Strong. They are a source more valuable than any Historical observance or reference to History itself. So Omar is not giving any lame excuse He is saying that according to written authenticated sources.

      • I agree. I don’t think Omaar was making lame excuses, but using the level of proof offered by Islam, in good faith. And letting the viewers know where the claim came from. Thoroughly honourable and worthy of respect. The problem from my point of view is that any oral religious tradition, when it’s finally written down, is shaped by the needs and circumstances of the compilers. You only have to look at the differing accounts of Jesus’ life in the 4 gospels, written decades after his death by people who weren’t there at the time, to see what I mean.

        I give Islam credit for at least having a verification process for the Hadith. However, that process is bound to be shaped by the minds of the verifiers. So I disagree with you that the Hadith is (are?) a more valuable source than historical research. Even there, it’s important to know where the writer’s coming from to help evaluate what they’re saying.

        The best evidence is scientific, and there is none for the existence of Allah, or any other god. Only what people say about that god. That said, people should be free to believe what they believe. Unlike some atheists, I don’t think religion will ever die out, so I look for humanity, compassion, and respect for secular law, social justice, and the scientific method. How people live, what they do with their lives, matters far more than what’s written in their sacred texts.

  6. i also want to learn more….

    you may or may not be right that rageh is the ideal person for the job. you may know him, you may have read his material on the subject. i havent, i am only going by what i was left feeling after this documentary. he is of somali decent who as i am aware are very orthodox in their islamic beliefs and according to unicef have a 95% rate of female genital mutilation (mostly forced) in somalia. i mention that to illustrate one of the ways how islamicly fundamental this country is. im sure there are other points in which to illustrate this but the stats on FGM in somalia are staggering, which is why it stuck in my mind. i know this is a sweeping statement but i do believe for some people their background will contribute to certain beliefs that will stick with them for the rest of their life especially about the concept of god and religion which is like a branding iron to the brain. however, i do not wish to tar him with that brush and it may be a totally mute point and he may not be of that thinking so i will give you that one. maybe ayaan hirsi ali would have also been a good expert to contribute as well especially as a viewpoint from a feminist point of view which i do think they could have allocated more time to (if she was available).

    at the start of your post you aknowledge rageh’s statement:
    The series is presented by Rageh Omaar, a practising Muslim. His declared aim is this:

    I want to examine his life and times and understand how they still affect today’s world, and whether they are force for good or evil. I want uncover the real Muhammad, the prophet of Islam, peace be upon him.

    so when you respond “Of course there’s some bias” i dont agree. if he started off by saying that, it is their duty to be 100% un-bias.

    “i dont think in a debate you can say because one religion has stupidities, its fine for others to have them.”

    “You certainly can when religions in general share certain characteristics, such as the reliance on a fixed, usually written, authority. This inevitably leads to cognitive dissonance as societies evolve and religions lag behind them.”

    totally disagree with this deflective form of answering the point in question.

    “I don’t think that Rageh represents an extreme. Dawkins certainly does in the sense that he’s an avowed enemy of religion, while the Islamist Jihad types represent the other, in their absolute belief in God and the desire to impose it on everyone else. Rageh is very much the middle ground, a moderate Muslim committed to both his faith and the ideals of Western democracy. What kind of middle ground were you looking for? A dispassionate, dry, scholarly analysis would not have revealed how Muslims think about their religion – something that I wanted to know – and it would have contained its own bias.”

    i can see your point here as well but also think you can have extreme religious beliefs without being an islamic jihadist. unfortunatly i am not sure if the concept of democracy ever reached arabia at time and whether muhammed did or did not have an opinion of it, so if it is against the islamic belief system and if rageh has had conflicts with it… i dont know. and i still do not know what classifies a ‘moderate muslim’, or even what the term actually means. is there a definition or is it personal view of what can be squeezed into that bracket? i still think the term is debatable. but as stated before, due to my lack of knowledge on rageh, i agree to your point.

    “And I have to wonder if you watched the last programme, because there was extensive footage of terrorists and their apologists. Even an interview with a couple of Muslims who had gone to prison for supporting terrorism. The whole tone of that programme was against extremism. The producers obviously knew that the subject of Sharia law was a huge bone of contention, and they showed both sides while very clearly coming down on the side of democracy and moderation. One Muslim expert said they should embrace civil law, with its focus on human rights, because that embodied the essence of Sharia as propounded by Muhammad. Talk about bias! Loads of it there.”

    again i reiterate, i want to hear from the source. you ask 1000 terrorist and they wont necessarily bleat the same. just like you and have taken different things from this documentary. yes i do think there views shed some light but nowhere near as much as the clerics who influence them. i mean what an opportunity to dispel what spews of of these guys mouths, make them look wrong and stupid, show the viewing public how they have contorted the messages of muhammed and his islam. the expert says they should embrace the civil liberties democracy brings, but the point is they havent and why. and these ‘experts’… are they more knowledgeable than these clerics who probably have profoundly more followers them. i beleive they were afraid to bring these people on in case they factually exposed muhammed and islam to which they would not be able to factually counter. i remember one debate where richard dawkins was asking the simple question to a muslim cleric what is is the sentence for apostasy, and after trying to divert and deflect the the question many times, richard finally pinned him down and he ashamedly admitted it was death. so yes…. bias!………or selective ‘experts’!

    “My concern is that Islam, out of all the other religions, has become the most demonized in the West, ignoring the ordinary Muslims who try to live a good life according to their own beliefs. You know this logical fallacy?

    Some Muslims are terrorists
    Muhammad is a Muslim
    Therefore Muhammad is a terrorist”

    that is a bit of a presumption as to the way people who are critical of muhammed and islam think.
    i do not hate muslims as i not hate human beings who have not done anything wrong. do i hate islam and do i have hate for the creator of this ideology…. YES! you may think i have contradicted myself here, but another critic may hold a different view.
    was muhammed a terrorist?….hmmm….. wiping out a whole tribe of 800 men…. were all of them of the same thought? were there not a few pacifists among them? some of them who just wanted to ‘live a good life according’ to their on beliefs’? military dictator, terrorist, or prophet? by proclaiming a revelation wipes out any form of crime does it?
    they may be demonized because they are what it says on the tin. the so called moderates are conflicted and that is why i believe you cannot have a moderate muslim as the final word of there messanger and the quran is in its perfect form and cannot be changed. the clerics are open and honest about this and therefore they are the true muslims.

    i may have lost you at this point as you may have probably already labelled me after that comment, but i am only being honest.

    yes i had prejudices before watching this programme. believe it or not i wanted to come away from this programme thinking that the billion or so believers of this faith have the right reasoning to hold these strong beliefs and that i, or what i have read and heard is has been misinterperated. but as i said i didnt come away with that. you came away with something different which is fine. im sure i am lacking in some facts which is why i am saying that they should have taken this opportunity be more honest, and let the chips fall where they may.

  7. The Life of Muhammad

    Rageh Omaar’s series entitled “The Life of Muhammad” has left no stone unturned in portraying Muhammad as the unique and peerless prophet. In the process, he has failed to shed light on the aspects that do not present him in a flattering light. It is therefore in dire need of comments to give a balanced view.

    The final episode of the series [Holy Peace] asserts that after the capture of Mecca:
    · The prophet, instead of wreaking vengeance, forgave all his enemies;
    · He proclaimed a general amnesty;
    · Furthermore, he declared that nobody would be forced to convert to Islam.

    Apropos of the above, I refer to N J Dawood’s Koran [1987 edition] Penguin Classics. I reproduce below a few excerpts from Sura “Repentence” [pages 320/1]
    · For 4 months you shall go unmolested in the land,
    · When the(se) months are over slay the idolaters wherever you find them,
    · Arrest them, besiege them, and lie in ambush everywhere for them,
    · If they repent and take to prayer and pay the alms-tax, let them go their way. [In other words the heads of only those Meccans would not be chopped off who had already converted to Islam].

    We have been told in the series that Mohammad exemplified humane qualities. But we find no sign of these in the above ultimatum to the Meccans. Does lying in ambush everywhere and slaying them stand testimony to his humane qualities? Where is the evidence of the so-called message of Justice, Peace and Reconciliation? That he had promised Meccans that they would not be forced to convert to Islam is at odds with the contents of the above Sura.

    Participants in the series have also made numerous misleading statements:
    · Equality and Rule of Law have been trumpeted as the cornerstones of Islam. In fact, in Islamic countries, there is no justice for minorities. The conquered people of other religions had no human rights. The Muslim rulers over the centuries imposed Jazya [Protection Money] on the non-Muslim subjects; while Muslims in the realm remained immune from it. An instance of extorting Jazya occurred in the recent past in Pakistan when Sikhs had to flee from their hearth and home and were allowed to return after they had agreed to pay that Jazya.

    · God was the creator of many tribes. Muhammad therefore preached that all humans get to know one another. That he did not wish his followers to fight, oppress, occupy, hurt or terrorise non-Muslim people. Then what were his followers doing to his Quraish brethren in Mecca after its capture?
    · There was wholesale forcible conversion in the conquered territories. For instance, the Arabs treated the Zoroastrians of Iran in a demonic fashion. At one time they cut off the heads of prominent Zoroastrians. The Arabs were therefore characterised as “the followers of Ahriman” (Satan). In the end, those who did not wish to convert to Islam fled to Makran and over the sea to India—Richard N Frye: The Golden Age of Persia (Page 96).
    · Salman Taseer, the Governor of Punjab [Pakistan], was assassinated in January 2011 by his police bodyguard while other members of his security personnel looked on. He was murdered as a punishment for his open condemnation of Pakistan’s harsh blasphemy laws that were causing blatant miscarriage of justice in courts to the Christian minority.

    · All humans are one. An Arab has no superiority over a Non-Arab. These statements are not borne out by the following quote in Farsi: “wallah ahl-e Abrahim anaka amidan majeed” (“Serve Abraham and his family and his race”—Arabs]. It clearly puts even Muslims of Non-Arab extraction in an inferior and subservient role. Christians and Jews were called Dhimmi [non-Muslims living with limited rights under Muslim rule]. Greeks in the conquered territories had “akis” added at the end of their surname which means “little”. This was an instrument to snub & humiliate them.
    · Furthermore, polytheists are called Kafir and any Muslim who murders them is called a “Ghazi” who goes straight to Paradise and does not have to wait for the Day of Judgement.
    · Equality is therefore a myth in Islam.

    · His polygamy has been presented as the prophet’s astute move to weld together different Arab tribes. This again does not make sense in view of him marrying Zaynab, the former wife of his adopted son, Zayd. Zaynab was Muhammad’s cousin and was a Quraish. There was, therefore, no other tribe involved in their marriage.

    The organised religions from the Middle East have produced three prophets. Each of these has left a book to guide the followers of his own religion. Moses gave the Jews the Ten Commandments; Christ gave his followers the Sermon on the Mount. Prophet Muhammad gave Muslims the Quran. Each of these books is claimed to contain Divine Revelation.
    However, while the first two had a “proactive” Revelation that was given only once to them in their lifetime, Muhammad’s revelations continued pouring in whenever he needed them. His revelations were not proactive; but “reactive”. In other words, they were tailor made for his requirements. Furthermore, Allah abrogated some earlier Revelations by later ones. One of the abrogated ones became the theme of Salman Rushdie’s controversial “Satanic Verses” which led to Khomeini’s pronouncing death fatwa on the author for writing about it. It is surprising that Allah was so unsure of the correctness of his Revelations that he had to chop and change them even during the lifespan of Muhammad. But, Muslims are not allowed to critically examine the contents or to have qualms about the authenticity of Divine Revelation of the Koran, because it is a faith-based religion.

    In conclusion, I must highlight the Islamic Principle of Taqiyya that allows lying for the sake of Allah. In practical terms it is manifested as dissimulation, lying, deceiving, vexing and confounding with the intention of deflecting attention, foiling or pre-emptive blocking. It is currently employed in fending off and neutralising any criticism of Islam or Muslims. We must therefore remain on our guard and not accept on trust statements made by Muslim scholars and Islamic apologists in the media about Islam. We have to dig deep to know the truth.

  8. As someone who has made a serious study of Islam and its self-proclaimed ‘Prophet’, I can unequivocally state the BBC2 series ‘The Life of Muhammad’ was a travesty. The programmes are more noteworthy for what they chose to conceal about the life of Muhammad than what they were willing to reveal.

    Islams own sources, the Quran,Sunnah and sirahs clearly reveal Muhammad murdered or mutilated ALL who spoke out against him, and with the support of his deluded, booty and sex motivated followers, he lied, plotted, tortured, killed, robbed, ransomed and raped his way to absolute political and religious power.

    Mr Aaqil Ahmed, Head of BBC Religious Broadcasting, has attempted to disingenuously lead us up the Islamic garden path and pull the holy wool over our eyes.

  9. Interesting ideas presented on this blog, not quite sure stuart parson how Mr Ahmeds programme has in anyway pulled the holy wool over anybodies eyes as it explored quite alot of the violence you mention which you have taken out of context, in detail. Had a fair and wide ranging spectrum of opinions from credible and knowledgeable muslims and non muslim sources. Perhaps you have made serious study of islam, although i think we can agree this hasnt been reflected in your writing.

    I think its sad the Islam as a whole suffers from views such as your own (mainly negative) from those who claim they have knowledge on the subject which is especially worrying.

    I dont recall any instant in which there was anything even vaguely about The prophet which leads you to believe he was a liar or that his was followers were sex motivated which is completely your own unfounded, weirdly distorted ideas you have of the religion.
    These clerics and extremists who are completely wrong and have completely misunderstood Islam. When i heard those young muslims who had been convicted who justify their acts through showing us verses in the Qu’ran is appauling, completely miscontrude and embarassing for any muslim. They have tarnished the image of Islam forever, quite dissapointing for all those muslims who live honest good lives without harming anyone.

    • “Perhaps you have made serious study of islam, although i think we can agree this hasnt been reflected in your writing.”

      I suspect that Stuart Parsons’ “serious study of Islam” was confined to cherry picking those points of view that confirmed his prejudices, then squeezing them together into one big ball of negativity and pretending it’s all there is to know about Islam. All you need for a PhD in this version is available on YouTube.

  10. Jamie Mitchell and Poet McGonagall. I have spent 4 years full time Studying the Islamic Religion.
    When you have studied the Quran, Sunnah, Sharia and sirahs, read numerous pro and anti Islam books and visited countless pro and anti Islam websites, I will be prepared to answer any SPECIFIC rather than general criticism you may care to make.

    Believe me the BBC ‘Life of Muhammad’ was deliberately disigenuous. The intention of the producers was to created the impression amongst the uninformed general public, within the U.K, that Islam is a reasonable and peaceful religion. The programmes did not reveal even 10% of the murder, killing, robbery, ransoming and raping carried out by Muhammad and his deluded followers. Islam own sources clearly reveal that Muhammad married the six year old Aisha (the programmes mendaciously suggested SHE MAY HAVE BEEN 16 or 17, but offered no evidence to back the claim) and engaged in non-penetrative mufa’khathat (thighing) with her until she was 9 and old enough for full penetrative consummation.

    I could present numerous further examples, but do not intend writing a book. One more should suffice to make my point. The programmes stated JIHAD to be the individual struggle of each Muslim to lead a good life and conform to the wishes of Allah. The BBC website, Religion, Islam, under the control of Aaqil Ahmed, clearly states ‘Jihad is holy war in defence of Islam’. Even this is untrue. The Quran, Sunnah and sirahs, supported by the actual life of Muhammad and the expansion of Islam by means of warfeare after his death, make it clear, beyond any shadow of doubt that Jihad is AGGRESIVE holy war in compliance with Allah wishes, expressed in the Quran, to give Islam control of the entire world.

    The 57 Muslim nations of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, do not accept the U.N declaration of Human Rights. In these 57 nations non-Muslims are treated very much as inferiors and persecuted by false accusations of blasphemy and Quran desecrations, they are attacked, forced to convert to Islam, kidnapped and forced to marry Muslims, raped and despised as inferiors.
    From time to time their homes, business and places of worship are attacked and destroyed.

    One of the latest outrages was that of a Pakistani Christian who was told he must convert to Islam by two Muslim men. The Christian refused to convert, so the two Muslims RAPED the TWO YEAR OLD DAUGHTER of the Christian. The poor girl is now in Canada for hospital treatment, but doctors say she is badly damaged and will have urinary problems for the rest of her life……. such is the nature of Islam.

    Four years ago to me Islam was just another of those strange foreign religions…… I now know differently. Islam is a far greater threat to the well-being of mankind than Fascism and Communism ever were.

    • Try saying something positive about Islam and I might accept that you’re not blinded by malice. I’m an atheist – I don’t believe in any of it – but people are good and bad regardless of religion or lack of it. It’s ridiculous to say that a whole religion is utterly evil, when it’s interpreted by a variety of believers in different historical periods and countries.

      There’s no scholarship or truth in blanket condemnation.

      • Hi Poet. I know of nothing good to say of Islam. There are a minority of Muslims who lead good lives. I would have some respect for them if they would protest about the treatment of non-Muslims in the 57 Nations of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation. In these countries non-Muslims are treated abomidably. They are falsely accused, attacked beaten, raped, forced to convert to Islam and kidnapped and made to marry Muslim men. They are are killed and their homes and places of worship are attacked and destroyed. The Internet is awash with reports and videos of these ever ongoing Islamic attrocities. Only last night a report and video informed us that in Pakistan two Muslim men had raped a two year old girl because her Christian father refused to convert to Islam. Doctors say the poor child is badly damaged and will have urinary problems for the whole of her life.

        I will have respect for the elusive minority of genuinely peaceful Muslims when I see them protesting against the attrocities carried out and supported by the majority of their evil co-religionists

  11. Hi Poet I do not understand. Why do you have nothing more to say ????
    Was there somthing in my last post that offended you ?

    • Stuart,

      You’ve just demonized 1.5 billion people on the basis of the religion they were born into – a fair description of bigotry. What sort of people do you keep company with that they don’t back slowly away when you proudly unfurl the opinions you have on this blog?

      Now do you understand?

  12. I was spurred on to put a few fact together as a rebuttal to that documentary, and I have this to say with a link to the full researched article. Comments would be appreciated:

    The Life of Muhammad:pt3 Medina On:MYTHS & REALITY
    The Myths of Muhammad believed by most Muslims
    Recent TV documentaries portrayed Muhammad (570-632 AD) as a man who prefers “Peace to War,” and is “compassionate and forgiving” so I have attempted to corroborate these claims from Islamic literature but I was most disappointed because I have found it impossible to substantiate those claims from the realities of Islamic history. Therefore, I have to relegate those claims to be MYTHS. My references will provide the authentication that some may wish to undertake more research into.
    (Currently part 1 and 2 are unavailable.)

    Introduction (Out of Context)
    One of the biggest mistakes we make in attempting to understand Islam is to study incidents in isolation and out of context because we loose perspective and we loose the interconnectivity of the whole. Thus to understand the myths following The Treaty of Hudaibiya, we have to cover a much larger portion of Islamic history and to attempt to connect the essential events that will provide the full tapestry of the psyche of the Prophet Muhammad or Islam. Many myths have been born in Islam because of phrases or edicts taken out of context. It is therefore important to study the whole historical text to separate the ‘Wheat from the chaff.” To appreciate the final Treaty of Hudaibiya leading to the Conquest of Mecca by Muhammad, we have to begin with the early days of Muhammad’s migration to Medina.

    Full article at: http://knol.google.com/k/mbp-lee/the-life-of-muhammad-pt3-medina-on/1l23x9udotn1a/145#

    • You mistake me for a scholar. I am not. Nor, I suspect, are you. My interest in watching The Life of Muhammad was to learn something about the founder of Islam from a fairly unbiased source – the BBC. My interest in writing about it is to clarify the ideas.

      I am satisfied that the experts from secular, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim traditions who discussed the many contentious points in the documentary know far more about it than either of us. I have no knowledge or aptitude to pick it apart, even if I wanted to, and certainly no interest in doing so.

      I suggest you choose another blog to discuss the subject in greater detail.

  13. Pingback: BBC Life of Muhammad : The Seeker | hifzan shafiee

    • It doesn’t appear so, after quick google. Bit of an own goal on the BBC’s part. The good news is that you can download the torrent file on Pirate Bay (not that I’ve ever done such a thing, you understand). The Beeb would be better off releasing it themselves.

  14. Asalam aleykum
    I’d like to say that the hateful comments below, some by Muslims no less, are a reflection of the widespread ignorance that permeates the society today…the fact is we don’t have to apologise for our beliefs and how much we love this man you lambast, Muhammad S.A.W., from the house of Abraham, brother of Jesus….it is what it is. No documentary can do him or this religion justice…and that’s it.
    Take it or leave it.

    • “No documentary can do him or this religion justice…and that’s it.”

      Nevertheless, documentaries must try to make sense of religion, and religions must get used to having hard questions asked of them. No institution is immune from criticism. I think the Life of Muhammad was as fair balanced as it could be. I do apologize for some of the more Islamophobic commenters. It’s not always easy distinguishing rant from legitimate argument, and I probably did not always get it right. If it’s any consolation, you should see some of the comments I rejected.

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