When the Arab Intellectuals Debated Muhammad
15 Jun, 2008
This article is a byproduct of my search to find any shred of evidence to the Muslims’ claims that the Quran stunned the early Arabs. This is another topic, which, hopefully will be the subject of another article. All the evidence in the Islamic sources, including the Quran, point to the fact that the Quran was never liked by the early Arabs, or indeed by any intellectual Arab, even in our time. This article is a blow to those Muslim scholars who have the cheek to make their claims in the face of the overwhelming evidence to the contrary. It is also in honour of those great minds of the Meccan Arabs, who, without shedding a drop of blood exposed Mohammed and his lies and attempted thwart Islam’s advance.
The seventh century Mecca was a thriving city and a fully
established commercial and cultural center in Arabia. A climate of
religious tolerance prevailed that allowed all tribes to practice
their religions freely. The pre Islamic Arabs were not isolated in
their peninsula but kept in touch with the outside world. They mixed
and traded with the neighboring nations and were well aware of the
cultures and civilizations in the north and the south. The Arabs had
already established two kingdoms in the north that had strategic
alliances with the Romans and the Persians. The Arabs had their own
refined culture as reflected in their fine poetry, which the Arabs
still consider to be the best they ever had.
Mohammed made use of the prevailing religious-tolerance culture,
and claimed he was a prophet. The Meccan Arabs did not automatically
reject his claims, but they gave him a chance to present his case to
a group of well-known intellectuals- the chance to make any
clarifications or to answer any questions. Those intellectuals of
Mecca included Abul Hakam Ibn Hisham and Al Nadr Ibn AlHarith. Both
were well-traveled, and articulated and renowned for their wisdom
and profound knowledge of the neighboring cultures. Those
intellectuals read with open, but critical minds what Mohammed had
purportedly claimed Allah had revealed in his Quran. Those men must
have noticed that the Quran contained many serious errors and
expected Mohammed to give good reasons for his claims of divine
revelations. Those Arab intellectual demanded answers and
clarifications to the many questions raised by the Quran and
Mohammed’s claims as all intellectuals would do when they review a
new literary wok. Those critics were asking the same questions about
the Quran that we still ask in our time without getting any answers
from the Muslims scholars.
It appears that Mohammed was taken aback when those great men of
Mecca pointed to the weaknesses of the Quran. They pressed hard
demanding answers and explanations to the irrationalities they
spotted in the Quran, but Mohammed stood there, wordless and
powerless. The debate left Mohammed psychologically traumatized.
When the intellectual grilling was over, Mohammed began to recall
the events of the day and the stressful moments he endured. He
recalled some of the hard questions he couldn’t answer and framed
them in new verses as a means to preserve his self-esteem. Mohammed
recorded his feelings about that debate in the Quran, as he often
did in times of stress.
Here are a few samples of those verses expressing Mohammed’s
frustration (Translation of Hilali and Khan)
In these verses, the troubled Mohammed was talking to himself
through his imaginary god; one could sense that he probably wished
if he had never mentioned the Quran to the Meccans at all:
7: 2. the Qur'ân sent down unto you so let not your breast be narrow therefrom….
11: 12. So perchance you may give up a part of what is revealed
unto you, and that your breast feels straitened for it ….
20: 2. We have not sent down the Qur'ân unto you to cause you distress.
In sura 21 (Anbyaa), Mohammed indirectly admits his failure and
describes clearly what the Arabs thought of him and his Quran:
21: 5. .. they say:"These are mixed up false dreams! Nay, he has invented it! Nay, he is a poet! Let him then bring us an Ayâh (sign as a proof) like the ones that were sent before
According to the above verse, the Arabs described the Quran as dream hallucinations, or fabrications, and asked Mohammed to produce a convincing proof like the previous prophets did. This is clear evidence that the Arabs did not believe the Quran had what it takes to be accepted as a convincing proof. Contrary to what modern Muslims claim, far from being stunned on hearing the Quran, the Arabs of Mecca spotted its inferior style. Immediately and rightly they concluded that Mohammed must have made it up. The Arabs had contacts with the neighboring nations and were aware of the ancient religious beliefs. The contents of the Quran were not new to them and they correctly described it as just old tales:
16: 24. And when it is said to them: "What is it that your Lord has sent down?" They say: "Tales of the men of old!"
More interesting revelations come in sura 19 (Yunis) where the
Quran clearly describes how the Arabs expressed their distaste to
its language style. The Arabs openly asked Mohammed to discard the
nonsense he had been uttering and say something of higher standard.
Failing that, they suggested to him to do some corrections and
editing to make his Quran acceptable. Understandably, Mohammed’s own
opinion was that the Quran was good and that was the best answer he
could provide. He expected every body else to share him his opinion
about his Quran. The last thing he wanted to hear was that his Quran
was full with mistakes and needed amendments. The following verse
describes that tense moment as Mohammed stood, totally astounded, in
front of those intellectuals. He was unprepared for the critical
remarks by those highly knowledgeable scholars. As reflected in his
answer, he was surprised, confused and shaken in his confidence. One
would expect Mohammed to stand firm in defense of his Quran and to
clarify any inaccuracies or ambiguous parts. Instead, he unashamedly
retreated and blamed it all on Allah! When the Meccans pressed for
answers, Mohammed’s response was most disgraceful: I cannot bring
you better than this and don’t blame me for it, I only follow
10: 15. And when Our Clear Verses are recited unto them, those who hope not for their meeting with Us, say: Bring us a Qur'ân other than this, or change it."Say "It is not for me to change it on my own accord; I only follow that which is revealed unto me.
As a result of that debate Mohammed’s lies and personality were
exposed. As the Arab intellectuals made a mockery of him because of
his inability to defend his Quran or justify his claims, he suffered
of intellectual defeat and embarrassing social humiliation. Allah
understood well Mohammed’s disposition, He quickly revealed:
21:36. …they take you not except for mockery..
25: 41. And when they see you, they treat you only as a mockery
Mohammed lived about five years in Mecca after this debate, but
his activities came to a near standstill. Having discovered his true
personality, the Meccan Arabs treated him as a madman and turned
away from him. But they had full respect for his civil rights. They
did not see in him a significant danger to the society more than any
other madman would pose. They left him alone in his imaginary world
and allowed him to believe in whatever religion he wanted. This is
well described in the Quran in the following verses:
44: 14. Then they had turned away from him and said: "One taught by others, a MADMAN!"
37: 36. ..they said: "Are we going to abandon our gods for the sake of a MAD POET?
52: 29. … you are neither a soothsayer, nor a MADMAN.
The pre Islamic Arabs were not new to dealing with people who
claimed to be prophets. At that time it was a booming business in
Arabia. They were aware that any man may claim to be anything, but
their claims die with them. The Meccan Arabs just ignored Mohammed
as they would ignore any madman. This strategy had worked well while
he was still in Mecca. Mohammed’s movement became idle and Islam
appeared to be doomed in its infancy. Mohammed himself considered
suicide as described in the Quran:
18:6. Perhaps, you, would kill yourself with grief, over their footsteps, because they believe not in this narration.
26:3. It may be that you are going to kill yourself with grief, that they do not become believers
(Please note that the translators added to both verses the words
‘with grief’, which do not exist in the Quran. This is another
example of the deceptive translation of the Quran where the
translators immediately shield the gloomy meaning of the verse).
However, Mohammed’s fortunes changed dramatically when he met
people from the Aws and the Khazraj tribes of Yathreb. Those
brainless and spineless Arabs allowed Mohammed and his followers in
their city. It didn’t take Mohammed more than a few months to take
over the city in which he was supposed to be a guest. Mohammed used
the resources now available to him to establish his state. The Aws
and Khazraj had no further role to play in the Islamic history;
their name vanished completely within a generation after they gave
their country to Mohammed on a silver platter.
The story of the above debate says it all about Islam. Mohammed
lost the intellectual debate as Muslims still do to our time, but he
won the battle of the sword, which I hope that Muslims will not win
this time. Mohammed never forgot his intellectual humiliation in
Mecca from which he never recovered. Sadly, but expectedly, Mohammed
went back with his forces and used his sword to settle an old score.
As a warlord, Mohammed’s first priority was to kill both men who
defeated him intellectually.
I am afraid that as far Islam is concerned, the pen is not mightier than the sword.
Mumin Salih is a Middle Eastern ex-Muslim.