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Peter Townsend

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    • the original unabridged and fully-referenced version with minor updates;
    • a new short (~two hours reading) version with 118 colour pictures by Connor O'Grady; and
    • the short version without pictures, for those who dislike pictures.

    Free PDF copies are available from  and on .  Please download them, post them anywhere and everywhere, and share them with anyone who might be interested.


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    I cannot recommend  highly enough. Get your copy today. 


    Kind regards, 


    Peter

     

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    In the  of (supposedly an ‘excellent example’ to be followed by all Muslims) we looked at his . Treatment that essentially amounted to genocide. With this final article we’ll turn our focus to how he dealt with those who rejected his message. 

    An important test of the character of a person is the way in which he or she responds to criticism. Upon examination of the evidence, it has to be said that Muhammad’s example in this area shows him to be someone for whom “live and let live” was a totally alien concept. He, instead, sought to silence criticism and dissent in as ruthless a manner as possible.

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    n the  in this  we looked at the fate of some of Muhammad’s female captives. It is now time to look at what happened to some men who had the misfortunes to fall into the clutches of the Muslim forces. One, quite horrific, example should suffice.

    During his campaigns, Muhammad came across the Jewish tribe of the Banu Qurayza who surrendered to him. After being disarmed, it was judged that the men of the tribe had to be put to the sword. Muhammad declared that this was in line with Allah’s judgment (Sahih Bukhari Volume 5 Book 59 Hadith 447). 

    He then proceeded to actively participate in the massacre of these unfortunate unarmed men. According to Ibn Ishaq: “The apostle went out to the market of Medina (which is still its market today) and dug trenches in it. Then, he sent for them and struck off their heads in those trenches as they were brought out to him in batches.” At least 600 unarmed males were killed in this way.

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    In the  in this  we looked at the fact that he was perfectly willing to deceive people in order to gain political or strategic advantage. With this article we’ll begin to look at how he treated those who were unfortunate enough to come under his power. 

    An important test of a man’s character is his conduct towards those who are weak or in a vulnerable position. In Muhammad’s case, the group to which this description could be most readily applied was the captives who came under his control when their tribes were defeated by the Muslims. Muhammad may have been teaching his followers to call upon Allah as “Merciful and Compassionate”, but his treatment of those whom his forces captured was often exactly the opposite of these values. In this article, it will be shown how Muslim forces engaged torture and human trafficking with his full approval and, sometimes, active participation. It should be stressed, once again, that what is related here comes from impeccable Islamic sources.

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    In the  we looked at the importance of Muhammad’s example in shaping Muslim beliefs and practices. The record of his conduct is perhaps nowhere more troubling than when it comes to exhortations to conflict and warfare.


    When studying the Qur’an and hadiths, a consistent pattern emerges. Muhammad made it clear on several occasions that engaging in warfare for the sake of Allah is one of the greatest things that a Muslim can do. Here are just some examples of this being made explicit by Muhammad (or supposedly said to Muhammad by Allah in the Qur’an):

    •  “Not equal are those believers remaining - other than the disabled - and the mujahideen, in the cause of Allah with their wealth and their lives. Allah has preferred the mujahideen through their wealth and their lives over those who remain , by degrees. And to both Allah has promised the best . But Allah has preferred the mujahideen over those who remain with a great reward” (Qur’an 4:95). It was narrated that Amr bin Abasah said: “I came to the Prophet and said: ‘O Messenger of Allah, which Jihad is best?’ He said: ‘ whose blood is shed and his horse is wounded’” (Sunan Ibn Majah Book 24 Hadith 2794). 

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    The ‘Prophet’ Muhammad said, “I have been made victorious through terror” (Sahih Bukhari Volume 4, Book 52, Number 220)

    Does that statement strike you as odd? If so, why?

    Most westerners know very little about the life and deeds of Muhammad. This despite him being such a towering figure on the world historical stage. Perhaps this can be explained by the fact that he is associated with a religious tradition that most westerners do not follow. Still, one would think that the reality that Islam has dominated the news over the past two decades would cause at least some people to dig deeper. Sadly this did not happen.

    Ignorance about Muhammad is nothing short of dangerous. It allows people to simply think of him as a benign religious figure who, like many others, taught the Golden Rule while trying to reform society. While there are, of course, many things that Muslims admire about their prophet there are also some aspects of his life and teaching that those of us outside the fold of Islam will necessarily find deeply troubling.

    The purpose of this series of articles is to look at the example of Muhammad and to analyze its relevance for the modern world. Why do this? Simply because the example of their prophet is of supreme importance for Muslim believers. As the Qur’an says: “There has certainly been for you in the Messenger of Allah an excellent pattern for anyone whose hope is in Allah and the Last Day and remembers Allah often” (Qur’an 33:21). His example, as portrayed in the hadiths and his Sira (biography) is, therefore, a matter of supreme importance to Muslims. By following in his footsteps, they believe that they give themselves the best possible chance to inherit eternal life.

    So, if Muhammad consistently preached and lived toleration, then Muslims would be duty-bound to follow him in this example. On the other hand, if his example was one of aggression and belligerence towards unbelievers, then this would be the standard example that Muslims are required to follow. We, therefore, need to carefully examine his record in this regard.

    It should be noted that there are many questions to be asked about the reliability of the traditions concerning Muhammad (questions I explore in my book ‘‘).

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    In this final article in the  we turn our focus to the ways in which people who transgress shari’a rulings are punished. 

    Modern human rights principles Unfortunately, Islamic law mandates exactly this kind of punishment for a variety of offences, some of which would not be regarded as crimes in other jurisdictions. 

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    In the I introduced this series on shari’a by pointing out that it is supposed to be a universal code for all Muslims under all circumstances. It should, therefore, be understood that shari’a was designed to control every aspect of the lives of society and individuals. 

    It is for this reason that certain actions which in many parts of the world would be legally neutral are depicted as firmly on the wrong side of shari’a. The following are, for example, regarded as serious crimes under shari’a: 

    • Apostasy (i.e. leaving the Islamic religion). In some jurisdictions where shari’a is consistently applied, apostates can expect the death penalty. (Based on Sahih Bukhari 4:52:260 and similar hadiths)
    • Free Speech. Blasphemy is regarded as a very serious crime under shari’a. Criticism of the prophet is regarded as especially serious. In line with Muhammad’s treatment of his critics most shari’a codes demand the death penalty for blasphemy. (Based on Muhammad’s treatment of critics like the poetess Asma bint Marwan) 
    • Adultery. The traditional shari’a punishment for adultery is stoning, this despite the fact that this punishment is mandated by the hadith collections and not the Qur’an. (See, for example, Sahih Bukhari 8:82:817)
    • Consumption of Alcohol and Games of Chance. Shari’a law in this area is based on Qur’an 5:90: “O you who believe! Strong drink and games of chance and idols and divine arrows are only an infamy of Satan’s handiwork. Leave it aside that you may succeed.” First offenses are generally punished with a whipping with more serious consequences for repeat offenses.
    • Homosexuality. Shari’a codes differ on the severity of punishment for acts of homosexuality but not on whether homosexuals should be punished. On the latter, they are in complete agreement. Many shari’a codes demand the death penalty for homosexuality. (Qur’an 4:16 and 7:80)

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    In the  of this , I focussed on the fact that shari’a criminalises many actions that are deemed perfectly legal in most other jurisdictions. That in itself should be enough to convince us of the fundamental incompatibility of shari’a with western legal systems.

    As if this (regarding normally non-criminal acts as crimes) is not enough, shari’a also positively commands certain actions that would normally be viewed as crimes. 

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    In the  of this we looked at the way in which shari’a mandates or, at the very least condone, actions that are regarded as serious crimes in other jurisdictions. However this is not where the incompatibility of shari’a with other legal systems ends. 

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    Shari’a (or ‘Islamic Law’) seems to be constantly in the news at the moment. Financial institutions are falling over themselves to offer ‘Shari’a Compliant’ banking, shari’a tribunals operate openly many western jurisdictions and there are persistent calls from Muslim groups for elements of shari’a to be recognised in non-Muslim societies. 

    It is, in light of this, not at all far-fetched to suggest that attempts to impose shari’a represents one of the ultimate frontlines when it comes to Islamic encroachment in the free world. We should, therefore, urgently come to terms with the basics of shari’a and take efforts to stop its inexorable march. It is for this reason that I’ve decided to do a little series of articles on shari’a. Please read these articles carefully and pass it own to anyone who may perhaps benefit from this information. 

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    The theological and political claims of Islam rest squarely on history. Islam will ultimately be victorious, so we are told, because modern Muslims are the direct heirs of a glorious vision for humanity mapped out by Muhammad, and those who conquered the great empires of Late Antiquity following him as their 'excellent example' (Qur'an 33:21) A lot will, therefore, depend on whether the history that is so deeply inspiring to the followers of Islam came down to us in an accurate and reliable way.

    If it can be proved that it did not, the entire Islamic theological edifice can be called into question.

    In his latest book Peter Townsend (author of 'Questioning Islam' and 'Nothing to do with Islam?') goes right back to the earliest years of the Muslim faith to ask some questions that are routinely ignored by those who are content to simply repeat the same old 'certainties' of standard Islamic history. The result of this research, drawing on the work of scholars from a wide range of disciplines, is a profile of the birth of Islam that is fresh, surprising and sometimes shocking.

    Journeying to 7th century Arabia with Townsend as your guide will cause you to look at Islam, its truth-claims and its place in the world with new eyes.

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