The Meaning of Life: Who Does Islam Say We Are? — Part I
We are investigating the meaning of life. Today we look at how Islam answers the question: Who are we? Before we can do that, we must first look at the history of how Muhammad brought Islam into being.
We note that the two holy books of Islam are the Qur’an, containing what Muhammad said he received from Allah; and the Hadith, containing his followers’ sayings.
Muhammad received the Qur’an from a spiritual being in a cave north of Mecca. But when this “angel of light” gave him revelations, Muhammad would shake, perspire, and foam at the mouth from seizures. He feared he was being tormented by an evil spirit. From Hadith Sahih al-bukhari, Vol 9. No. 111: “Then Allah’s Apostle returned with the Inspiration, his neck muscles twitching with terror till he entered upon Khadija and said, ‘Cover me! Cover me!’ They covered him till his fear was over and then he said, ‘O Khadija, what is wrong with me?’ ”
Muhammad’s uncle Waraqah Ibn Nawfal belonged to an heretical Christian sect. He convinced Muhammad that the being who gave him these visions was the angel Gabriel. From the same passage as above: “But after a few days Waraqh died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up to the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, ‘O Mohammed! You are indeed Allah’s Apostle in truth’ whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home.” Translation: Muhammad was so distressed by these visits from an angel that he tried, multiple times, to commit suicide. Thus did Muhammad receive the “holy” Qur’an. (One might now ponder 2 Corinthians 11:14: “Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.”)
After teaching from the Qur’an in Mecca for twelve years, he had a grand total of 150 followers, mostly relatives and slaves. Then he moved to Medina where he received new visions—he was to rob and steal from passing caravans.
This brings us to an important point of Islamic teaching: The doctrine of abrogation. This says that later verses supersede earlier verses. Thus the Medina verses supersede Meccan verses. The Meccan verses are called the “weak verses” and preach peace and mercy. The Medina verses are the “strong verse” and they preach war, revenge, and killing. This doctrine is important in Islamic thought because it says that where they conflict, the Qur’an supersedes the Bible. (But it also implies that Allah can change his mind. If he can supersede and change what he has already given the world, then he is either an untrustworthy god or a liar. But if this god can change his mind, then what is right today can become wrong tomorrow and there is no longer any basis for morality.)
With new revelations in hand, Muhammad began to spread Islam by force. His visions told him to kill and drive out the Jews. In AD 627 he beheaded 700 captive Jewish men. The women and children he divided among his warriors, taking 1/5 of them for himself. He proceeded to raise an army, return to Mecca, and conquer it. There he ordered ten personal enemies murdered. In total he fought 66 battles, killing at least 3,000. They called it “the religion of the sword.”
Such is the history of Muhammad. (For more see Walter Martin’s Kingdom of the Cults and William Federer’s What Every American Needs to Know About the Qur’an.) Next time we’ll look at some verses from the Qur’an that tell us who Islam says we should be.