Questions and Answers > Muhammad > Violence

Was Muhammad a man of peace?

1. Introduction

Peace played a role in Muhammad’s attitude to people with whom he had to deal. However, the real test for the question about being a man of peace is his lifestyle. Are the peace guidelines of Muhammad in line with his behavior?

2. Muhammad’s guidelines for peace

Many Qur’an verses are a testimony that Muhammad was involved to make peace between quarreling believers, such as Qur’an 48:18 “When the enemy incline toward peace, do you also so incline”. Also Qur’an 8:61 49:9 [1]. However the peace guidelines are in case of social and political issues limited: “So if they do not withdraw from you or offer you peace or restrain their hands, then seize them and kill them wherever you overtake them” (Qur’an 4:91). The peace program of Muhammad is not oriented to an absolute approach as in the case with Jesus Christ, who died to be obedient to God and to keep peace.

3. Muhammad’s violent lifestyle

Muhammad could not live in agreement with the lifestyle practices he promoted. His peace guidelines are not in line with Muhammad’s behavior. He gave orders to behead more than 500 Jews of the Banu Qurayza tribe, who had no plans to attack the Muslims. That Muhammad had hate against his opponents can be concluded from his orders to burn the palm plantations of his enemies. Although the young Muhammad was a religiously motivated seeker after truth, he became later a man corrupted by power and worldly ambitions [2]. Conquering new areas was for Muhammad more important than peace [3].

4. Muslim responses

According to most Muslims, Muhammad called people to God’s message with wisdom and good apologetics. Because he was involved in tribal conflicts, people of Quraysh rejected his message and put him to persecution. Muhammad had to leave Mecca and go to Medina where he was also could not preach Islam in peace. To defend his religion, he had to be involved in seven battles. However, historians show that Muhammad has made contributions to hundred battles and many of them were initiated by him [4]. He tried to find peace and has forgiven many of his attackers. Muhammad teached the principle of returning from the lesser Jihad (going to war) to the greater ihad (the struggle of the soul). But this view contradicts with many Islamic sources, including the report on the initiated military action on the Banu Mustaliq: "The Prophet had suddenly attacked Bani Mustaliq without warning while they were heedless and their cattle were being watered at the places of water.
Their fighting men were killed and their women and children were taken as captives" [5]. Therefore Muhammad can be called a man of war.

5. Conclusion

Muhammad was involved in many battles, including some initiated battles. He has cursed Christians, Jews and other non-Muslims. Muhammad not a man of peace. A sharp contrast with Jesus Christ who preached and practiced peace. Muhammad is the example for the lifestyle of a Muslim. Therefore Islam was growing with too much violence and some Muslims are still using his example today to initiate violence [6].


Notes:

1. Earle H. Waugh, Peace, in: Jane Dammen McAuliffe (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Qur’an, Brill, Leiden, 2004, Volume Four, P-Sh, 35.
2. Ibn Warraq, Why I am not a Muslim, Prometheus, New York, 1995, 87.
3. Kenneth Cragg, The Call of the Minaret, Oneworld Publications, 2003, 77.
4. Wikipedia, List of expeditions of Muhammad, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_expeditions_of_Muhammad
5. Bukhari, Volume 3, Book 46, Number 717, http://www.usc.edu/org/cmje/religious-texts/hadith/bukhari/046-sbt.php#003.046.717.
6. Robert Spencer, Islam Unveiled. Disturbing questions about The World’s Fastest-Growing Faith, Encounter Books, San Francisco, 2002, 168.

Qur'an 19:33: Is Jesus peace?