MOHAMED, VIOLENCE, WOMEN AND THE TEACHINGS OF ISLAM
Islam started with Mohammed, a Quraish tribesman born in the Middle-Eastern city of Mecca around 570 A.D. His parents died when he was young and, consequently, he was raised by his uncle. When twenty-five years of age, he married a wealthy widow merchant who was fifteen years older than him. In the year 610, he claimed to have a vision from Gabriel, the archangel, and from 610 to 622 there were more claims of angelic revelations. These alleged revelations were written down and compiled into what today is the Koran. The Koran was actually put together twenty-five years after Mohammed’s death by scribes who claimed to remember what he had said.
Many in Mecca did not accept Mohammed’s visions and he had some difficult years of rejection. However, some tribal leaders in the city of Medina requested that he come there and bring leadership to their tribes. He did so and soon was in a position of military power.
Medina was populated by conflicting Jewish and Arab tribes. Mohammed engaged in battle with the Jewish tribes, having Jews either expelled or executed. In his last battle against the Jews, around Medina, he slaughtered 700 to 800 men. Mohammed did not always kill the Jews, but would spare them if they would accept his leadership. The women and children became booty for his warriors. Mohammed himself would take a Jewish widow and another woman from the vanquished tribes.
While solidifying his control of Medina was advantageous politically, his next conquest would be even greater for his military and political success. On January 1, 630 A.D., Mohammed led an army of 10,000 against Mecca. Mecca offered little resistance. Mohammed took the city and made its citizens pledge their loyalty to him.
What was Mohammed’s moral life like?
The Koran teaches that a man can marry up to four women. However, Islam makes an exception for Mohammed. The history of this is not perfectly clear, but it is said that he had nine to thirteen wives or concubines. The wife that he loved most was Aisha, who was betrothed to him when she was six years old and their marriage was consummated when she was nine. She was one of his wives for the last nine years of his life. Mohammed also had female captives that he claimed sexual rights to. Mohammed died in 632 in Aisha’s quarters. Even though Mohammed taught that a husband should not marry more than four wives, he also said; “But if you fear that you cannot maintain equality among them, marry one only or any slave-girls you may own.” (Koran 4:3) According to Sunni Muslims, Mohammed permitted mut’a. In Islam, these are marriages that are only valid for a fixed and designated period of time. Then they are annulled. Shiites also have this practice.
Women in Islam are required to live under very strict regulations. Mohammed, allegedly, received special rules concerning women’s dress, that they should be veiled and mostly covered. Traditional Muslims interpret this to mean that women should cover all of themselves except their faces and hands. Some more liberal Muslims interpret this differently. There have been cases where Muslim women were not permitted to receive normal hospital treatment because it would mean their personal exposure. In 2005, two doctors were executed for treating Iraqi women. In Islam, men are told to beat women in some cases. It is recorded in Sura 4:34:
Men have authority over women because Allah has made the one superior to the other, and because they spend their wealth to maintain them. Good women are obedient. They guard their unseen parts because Allah has guarded them. As for those from whom you fear disobedience, admonish them and forsake them in beds apart, and beat them.
Some Muslim scholars have attempted to soften this command by saying that husbands should beat their wives lightly, not excessively.
The Bible, and Jesus Christ, treats women honorably and respectfully. Women, like men, are created in God’s image. (See Genesis1:27). They were involved in the fall and, like men, are fallen creatures. However, women are spoken of in the Bible as being loving and affectionate and tender and constant. The Bible tells of the virtuous and good wife in Proverbs 31:10-29. We read further in Proverbs 31:28-31:
Her children rise up and bless her;
Her husband also, and he praises her, saying:
“Many daughters have done nobly,
But you excel them all.”
Charm is deceitful and beauty is vain,
But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised.
Give her the product of her hands,
And let her works praise her in the gates.
The Bible also warns of those women who do not choose the higher road of piety and purity. Although the Bible warns of such women, it does not focus on such but, rather, holds up a high ideal for women. Women are spoken of as fair and graceful. (See Genesis 12:11, 24:16; Song of Solomon 1:10).
The Bible declares punishment for those who would injure women when they are pregnant. (See Exodus 21:22-25). Jesus treated women with great dignity. There were numerous women in His life who followed Him and ministered to Him. (See Luke 8:2-3). In the Gospels, we read of Jesus’ mother, Mary, who is favored and blessed (see Luke 1:28-30) and we see Jesus’ respectful treatment of her, especially when He was dying on the cross and was giving the Apostle John instructions for caring for her. Jesus was followed by women, such as, Mary Magdalene, Mary and Martha and others, all of whom He treated respectfully. Sometimes, Jesus’ courteous and tender treatment of women was misunderstood. In John, Chapter 4, Jesus talks with a Samaritan woman at a well and instructs her concerning salvation. When Jesus’ disciples see this, they were “ … amazed that He had been speaking with a woman, …” (John 4:27). We read of one time when the Pharisees brought to Jesus a woman who was guilty of adultery. The Pharisees, like fundamentalist Muslims, believed that adulterous women should be executed. Jesus intervened by addressing the Pharisees’ own sinfulness. Because of Jesus’ intervention, the woman’s life was spared. Jesus declared to her that He did not condemn her. (See John 8:1-11). Here, we see Jesus’ care and mercy for women, even for those who had not lived honorably.
What kind of religion did Muhammed create?
Islam teaches such doctrines as:
Monotheism – the belief in one God.
Scripture – belief that the Koran is infallible.
Prophets – many up until the time of Mohammed, whom they consider the last.
Angels – that Gabriel appeared to Mohammed having the words of the Koran.
Judgment – God will judge all people.
Heaven and Hell – places of reward and punishment. 1
Islam has five pillars, or requirements, and a controversial sixth pillar.
The first pillar is to recite the Shahadah, which says; “There is no God but Allah, and Mohammed is His messenger.”
The second pillar is to pray. This includes seventeen prayers a day, noon hour prayer at a mosque on Fridays, and five specified prayer times, per day.
The third pillar is fasting, done in the month of Ramadan.
The fourth pillar is the giving of alms.
The fifth pillar is making a pilgrimage. Those who can afford to, and are physically able, are to make a pilgrimage to Mecca at least once in their lifetime.
The sixth controversial pillar is called Jihad (Holy War). Mohammed, and many after him, conducted violent jihads in conquering the Middle East, and beyond, but many Muslims do not interpret jihad in the literal physical sense. However Mohamed practiced violent Jihad himself and it is difficult to reconcile this with a non-violent practice of Jihad.
1 George W. Braswell Jr. What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000) 19.
Ankerberg, John and Dillon Burroughs. What’s the Big Deal About Other Religions. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2008.
Braswell Jr. George W. What You Need to Know About Islam and Muslims. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000.
Wolff, Richard. The Popular Encyclopedia of World Religions. Eugene: Harvest House Publishers, 2007.