James M. Arlandson
Few people know that Muhammad says in the Quran that he takes refuge in Allah from evil witches who may cast spells on him (Sura 113:4).
Few people know that early reliable Islamic sources reveal that before Muhammads ministry went public in Mecca, he nearly committed suicide multiple times.
Few people know that early reliable Islamic sources say that he was bewitched by a Jewish magician for "a long period" in Medina.
Few people know that the Quran itself reports that jinn (genii) secretly and invisibly listened to the Quran and became Muslims, while others refused.
But maybe more people know that early reliable Islamic sources say that Muhammad believed Satan inspired him, out of his despair, to recite some verses that made it into the Quranthe so-called Satanic verses.
To repeat, these facts come from early reliable Islamic sources, not from the imagination of non-Muslims. This cannot be overemphasized. Early Muslim scholars themselves report these events and beliefs held by their prophet.
This article analyzes these facts. First, we look at Muhammads life in Mecca, when these fears and suicidal thoughts and Satanic inspirations first came up. Second, we examine his life in Medina after his Emigration or Hijrah there in AD 622. It will be discovered that he maintained his fears and odd beliefs about dark powers even during this time.
Finally, in the interest of Comparative Religions, we will study how Jesus dealt with the kingdom of darkness. Suffice it to say here that he never once was fearful of it. In fact, the New Testament says he terrified demons, casting them out of harassed and oppressed people.
The purpose of this article is to explore ALL of Islam, so the uninformed and misinformed can gain some understanding of this worldwide religion. The purpose is not simply to put Muhammad down.
A warning, though.
C. S. Lewis says in the preface of his book Screwtape Letters that readers should avoid two extremes in the matter of dark powers. On the one hand, skeptics may believe that all of this talk about the devil is myth or rubbish. They have succumbed to modern rationalistic philosophy or scientific materialism. Satan is delighted that these skeptics no longer believe in him. Now he can ruin their lives without their knowing it.
But on the other hand, the religiously inclined may let their curiosity about the dark world run a way with them, dabbling in things that are dangerous and forbidden. These extremists have given up too much of their reason.
Both positions are wrong.
So lets analyze these historical and textual facts in early Islam, steering clear of the two extremes.
Muhammad at Mecca
Muhammad meditated alone when he first felt concerned for his fellow Meccans. It was in these lonely hours that the spirit world hit him hard, traditionally dated at AD 610.
1. Suicidal thoughts
Muhammad became suicidal during two times in his life, and the second time shows him climbing cliffs multiple times, in order to throw himself off.
First, before Muhammads ministry went public, when he first received revelations, he was so confused that he became suicidal. The early Muslim historian Tabari (d. 923) records this tradition:
I [Muhammad] said to myself, "Your humble servant (meaning himself [Muhammad]) is either a poet or a madman, but Quraysh [a large Meccan tribe] shall never say this of me. I shall take myself to a mountain crag, hurl myself down from it, kill myself, and find relief in that way." (Tabari, Muhammad at Mecca, trans. W. Montgomery Watt and M V McDonald, vol. 6, SUNYP, 1988, p. 71, Arabic p. 1150)
Muhammad says here that he despised poets and madmen. On the one hand, he did not want this reputation thrown on him by his opponents among the Quraysh. But on the other, he was terribly oppressed with the onslaught of revelations. He claims that Gabriel treated him roughly, such as pressing down on him, physically (Ibn Ishaq, p. 106 / 152-53). He was stuck between a rock and a hard place. So what was his solution? He decided to take himself to a mountain crag and throw himself off of it, killing himself.
This reliable hadith agrees completely with Tabari:
... But after a few days Waraqa 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 the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, "O Muhammad! You are indeed Allahs Apostle in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. (Bukhari)
Clicking on the link, readers will see Muhammad suffering from rough treatment from the non-Biblical Gabriel.
Before that act of desperation, however, Muhammad told his first wife Khadija that he feared he was either a poet or a madman. She ran to tell her cousin Waraqa, a Christian and supposedly a scholar. Her cousin, a blind, venerable old man, told her that Muhammad had not encountered Satan. Waraqa referenced Moses as receiving revelations from Gabriel. This calmed Muhammads fears.
However, the Torah never mentions this archangel, so the Christian "scholar" was wrong to compare Muhammad and Moses. Gabriel appears by name only four times in the entire Bible (Daniel 8:16 and 9:21; Luke 1:19 and 26). While Daniel prostrated himself in holy fear before Gabriel, and Zechariah and Mary, the mother of Jesus, wondered at his presence, they never suffered from extreme confusion or suicidal thoughts.
So there is a vast difference between the Bible and early Islamic traditions on visitations from Gabriel, who has replaced, wrongly, the Holy Spirit in Islamic theology. Gabriel of the Bible commands respect, but he did not physically mistreat Daniel, Zechariah or Mary. Gabriel of the Quran, in contrast, does physically mistreat Muhammad to the point of his suicidal confusion. This is standard for Muhammad and Allah. Islam contains seeds of Christianity and the Bible, but he and his deity take things too far or distort things.
For more analysis on the differences between the Gabriel of the Bible and the Gabriel of the Quran, see this article, and scroll down to "Who was this spirit that called himself Gabriel?" and this one.
The second example of suicidal thoughts takes place during one spiritual dry season in Muhammads life. The revelations from Gabriel ceased, so he again became desperate. The historian Tabari records this tradition:
The inspiration ceased to come to the messenger of God for a while, and he was deeply grieved. He began to go to the tops of mountain crags, in order to fling himself from them. (vol. 6, p. 76 / 1155)
It takes a long time to climb high cragsand he did this more than once. What were his thoughts during the climbs? What did he think as he looked down from the heights? Surely he felt mentally harassed. But in the nick of time, Gabriel would appear to him and tell him to stop.
Regardless of this alleged divine intervention, it is not too much to ask what kind of prophet this is. Suicide by throwing himself off a cliff a plurality of times? To an outsider to Islam, Muhammad seems disturbed and unstable. Though blunt, that is a fair interpretation of the facts found in Islamic sources.
How do traditional Muslim apologists (defenders) respond? They seek to discredit the historian Tabari (except when he presents Muhammad as good and noble) because they have the prior belief that Muhammad would not do this. But reputable historians reasonably and correctly believe that Tabari is preserving reliable traditions precisely because no Muslim scholar would dare make this up on his own, nor would he receive this tradition from a non-Muslim. Also, this last tradition on his suicide attempts is recorded by the hadith collector and editor Bukhari (d. 870), whom traditional Muslims consider as completely reliable: Interpretation of Dreams, no. 6982 (cf. Bukhari, Revelation, no. 3 and Tabari, vol. 6, p. 76 / 1155). Since this tradition is reliable, then why not the one about his first suicide attempt when he was afraid that he was either a madman or an inspired poet (see above, Tabari, vol. 6, p. 71 / 1150)?
This severe confusion leading to suicide attempts happened before Muhammads ministry went public. This is a troubling start for a founder of a religion. Do the evil and Satanic harassments stop after his public ministry begins?
For more analysis of Muhammads suicidal thoughts, see this article. This article responds to a Muslim rebuttal, and so does this one.
2. The Satanic verses
Muhammads ministry is now public. After a lot of opposition from Muhammads fellow Meccans, he became discouraged. His own tribesmen, some of his family, and others in and around Mecca tried to talk him out of his opposition to their gods, offering him money and prestige. They suggested that they worship each others gods. At first he turned them down (cf. Sura 109, though Watt sees this sura coming after the Satanic verses, when Muhammads monotheism grows more clearly). His desire (note the key word) for reconciliation was strong. Muhammad and the Meccan men were gathered together, and Tabari the historian picks up the narrative.
First, the historian mentions Muhammads motives for the Satanic verses. He writes:
With his love for the tribes and his eagerness for their welfare it would have delighted him if some of the difficulties which they made for him could have been smoothed out, and he debated with himself and fervently desired such an outcome . . . . (Tabari, vol. 6, p. 108 / 1192)
Then Tabari records the verses from Sura 53, which encourages the Meccans to receive intercession from their three main goddesses. He writes:
Then God revealed:
By the Star when it sets, your comrade [Muhammad] does not err, nor is he deceived; nor does his speak out of (his own) desire [Sura 53:1-3]
And when he came to the words:
Have you thought upon al-Lat and al-Uzza and Manat, the third, the other? [Sura 53:19-20]
Satan cast on his tongue, because of his inner debates and what he desired to bring upon his people, the words:
These are the high-flying cranes, verily their intercession is accepted with approval. (Tabari, ibid.)
This last verse is not found in the Quran today (Arberrys translation, Sura 53, note 7), but it was replaced with a polemical verse:
Are you [polytheists] to have the male and He [Allah] the female? [53:21]
Here the interpolator argues that the human polytheists prefer the male child, whereas they consign to Allah female children. In seventh-century Arab culture, this was unfair to the deity. The interpolator uses the beliefs of the polytheists against them because they worshipped the daughters of the higher god. Why should only humans get sons?
Be that as it may, the Meccans were thrilled that Muhammad accepted their goddesses, whose shrines were located near Mecca, and one between Medina and Mecca. Both he and they prostrated themselves. The Meccan men joyfully returned to their homes and stopped their persecution of him. Some Muslims who had emigrated to Abyssinia across the Red Sea due to persecution (or perhaps due to trade, or both, says Watt) heard of this new cooperation, so they returned to Mecca. However, Muhammad regretted those words. Gabriel came to Muhammad and reproved him, abrogating or canceling the Satan-inspired verses.
Tabari records the change:
Then God cancelled what Satan had thus cast, and established his verses by telling him that he was like other prophets and messengers, and revealed:
Never did we send a messenger or a prophet before you but that when he recited (the Message) Satan cast words into his recitation . . . God abrogates what Satan casts. Then God established his verses. God is knowing, wise. [Sura 22:52] (Tabari, vol. 6, p. 109 / 1193)
This verse from Allah contains an error, when it says that every prophet or messenger recited their message under Satanic inspiration, at least once. Jesus, whom Muslims wrongly regard merely as a prophet, is never recorded in the Four Gospels as speaking Satan-inspired words. In fact, it is impossible to find these egregious falsehoods in great Biblical prophets like Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel while they were speaking under divine guidance. Though the last three prophets are not sinless (no human is), they do not speak their message or prophecies out of inspiration from Satannot even once. Muhammad is simply making this up so that he does not look bad when he came under the influence of Satan. Also, Sura 22:52 contradicts a (baseless) belief in Islam that all prophets must be sinlessly perfect. But how can Satan-inspired words spoken by a prophet or messenger keep him sinless one hundred percent of the time?
For more information on other changes in the Quran, see this article and scroll down to "Some comments about the Satanic verses" (no. 3).
It is natural that Muslims would react against this entire episode, because it makes their prophet seem unworthy of honor and being followed. But the prominent and reputable Islamologist W. Montgomery Watt, who helped translate and annotate Tabaris sixth volume, is reasonable and correct when he observes:
The truth of the story cannot be doubted, since it is inconceivable that any Muslim would invent such a story, and it is inconceivable that a Muslim scholar would accept such a story from a non-Muslim. (Tabari, Introduction, vol. 6, p. xxxiv)
Watt frequently defends Islam and Muhammad, but he rightly accepts the tradition of the Satanic verses, on solid grounds.
Before leaving this section, it should be pointed out that this episode about the Satanic verses can also be found in other early Muslim sources, besides Tabari. First, Watt in his book Muhammad at Mecca (Oxford UP, 1953, p. 102) cites Tabari in his commentary, who cites a number of sources, notably a certain Abu l-Aliyah. Second, the Muslim historian and judge Waqidi (d. 823) in his Kitab al-Maghazi (Book of Military Campaigns, ed. by Marsden Jones; also translated into German by the Old Testament scholar, J. Wellhausen) records it. Third, it is found in the biographer Ibn Saad (d. 844) in his Kitab al-Tabaqat al-Kabir (meaning "The Book of the Great Generations", English translation by S. Moinul Haq).
Again, Muslims seek to discredit these two early Muslim scholars along with Tabari, but Watt is correct. It is inconceivable that a Muslim would invent this story on his own or accept it from a non-Muslim. Other early sources that omit this unpleasant story probably do so "because . . . it was discreditable to the Prophet" (Watt and McDonald in Tabari, vol. 6, p. 108, note 170; cf. Bukhari, Commentary, no. 4862).
But let us assume, only for the sake of argument, that these traditions are weak. Then this question still needs to be asked and answered: what was it about Muhammads life that would generate these (weak) traditions? After all, by comparison, later traditions develop around Jesus, but they do not show him being harassed by suicidal thoughts or by demons who take control of him.
This Satanic inspiration calls into doubt the other revelations in the Quran during the Meccan period. If Satan inspired Muhammad in three verses, he may have inspired him in others. It is a fact that Muhammad confuses many Old Testament stories in his Meccan suras (and Medinan suras)not to mention his Christology (doctrine of Christ). How do we know whether or not these verses are reliable? Simple. We compare the stories in the Quran about Noah, Abraham, Lot, and Moses, for example, with those in the Bible. The Bible and the Quran differ widely. Therefore, Muhammad was making up his stories, or he had inspiration from a being other than God, or he incorporated fictions into the Quran from bad human sourcesor a mixture of all three.
For more information on the Satanic verses and a response to Muslims reactions, see this article. It also has William Muirs translation of Waqidi on the matter. Muirs biography of Muhammad in a section dealing with the Satanic verses can be read here.
3. Some stubborn, evil jinn (genii)
Islamic doctrine says that jinn are spirit beings. They cannot be seen by human eyes, but they can see humans. Some jinn are good, whereas others are evil. This means they are not exactly like demons. But they do harass people and take on animal shapes, such as snakes and scorpions.
Muhammad in his Quran says that some of the jinn listened to his recitation of his holy book. Some submitted, that is, became Muslims, whereas others refused.
The jinn are speaking in this passage:
. . . "As soon as we heard the message of guidance [the Quran], we believed in it. Now whoever believes in his Lord will have neither fear of loss nor of injustice." And that: "Some of us are Muslims (submissive to Allah) and some deviators from the Truth. Those who have adopted Islam (the way of submission) have found the way to salvation, and those who have deviated from the Truth will become fuel for Hell." (Sura 72:13-15, trans. Sayyid Abul ALa Maududi, The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 6, p. 91)
This passage reflects pre-Islamic myths that jinn can listen in on human conversations. But Muhammad manipulates the Meccan polytheists belief to his own advantage because he claims that some jinn become Muslims. If jinn have become Muslims, then what about Meccan humans becoming Muslims, too? Oddly, Maududi (d. 1979), a highly respected commentator, asserts that some jinn may be Christians, based on Sura 72:3, which says that some believe that Allah has a son (note 4 in his commentary).
However, evil jinn walked away from Muhammads message. Maududi says that Muhammad did not see them, according to Sura 72:1, which says that Muhammad had to get a revelation that the evil ones and the good ones were listening in on his recitation (note 1). What does this say about his spiritual authority over the evil jinn (and even the good ones)? Why did they not shriek at Muhammads presence? Why did he not rebuke them?
As we shall see in the next major section, "The Three-year Ministry of Jesus," Jesus takes absolute authority over all evil spirit beingsover all spirit beings, even Satan himself. When Jesus comes on the scene, they shriek at his presence, begging him not to throw them into the fires of hell. As we shall see, the Holy Spirit will lead Jesus to undergo special temptations, but when Satans time was up, Jesus rebuked him decisively.
For more information on the jinn, see this online dictionary, and scroll down to "Genii."
4. Satan and witchcraft and knots on the head
The following hadith by the collector and editor Bukhari indicates that Muhammad believes that some sort of knots on the head is the result of Satan and witchcraft.
Narrated Abu Huraira: Allahs Messenger said, "During your sleep, Satan puts three knots at the back of the head of each of you. On every knot he reads and exhales the following words, The night is long for you, so stay asleep. When that person wakes up and remembers Allah, one knot is undone; and when he performs ablution, the second knot is undone, and when he offers Salat (prayer) the third knot is undone and one gets up energetic in a good mode [sic, mood] with a good heart in the morning; otherwise he gets up in a bad mode [sic, mood], lazy." (Bukhari, Night Prayer, no. 1142; cf. Creation, no. 3269)
Muhammad provides steps to purge oneself from the influence of Satan, by rituals. (This is a far distance from the decisive and firm spiritual authority that Jesus gives his followers.) Should we take him literally and seriously about the knots coming from witchcraft? He seems to take this phenomenon literally and seriously in the Quran.
Sura 113, a short one, revealed in Mecca, says in its entirety:
113:1 Say [Prophet], "I seek refuge with the Lord of daybreak 2 against the evil in what He has created, 3 the evil in the night when darkness gathers, 4 the evil in witches when they blow on knots, 5 the evil in the envier when he envies." (MAS Abdel Haleem, The Quran, Oxford UP, 2004)
This short sura says that nighttime brings evil, and it implies that witches work their Satanic magic at certain times of the twenty-four hour day. This link to the times of the day agrees with Bukharis hadith, so the transmitter Abu Hurairas report is accurate, though it is unclear when he narrated this hadith after AD 628. It is included here in the Meccan section because Sura 113 was revealed during this period. Muhammad held this belief early in his ministry.
Further, Sura 113 says that Muhammad takes refuge in Allah. Thus, he appears insecure and even fearful of dark powers. Granted, he is only human, so maybe he had no choice. He does not seem to have enough spiritual authority to rebuke Satan with his words alone. Muhammad did not lose his fear of the dark power of witchcraft, even after he moved to Medina. Maududi in his commentary on Sura 113 (and 114) believes that Muhammad came under the influence of magic, as we shall see in Muhammads life in Medina.
To conclude this section, Muhammad is seen, according to Islamic sources, first, to be suicidal when he despairs. It is one thing to be discouraged, but thoughts of suicide are unhealthy.
Next, early Islamic sources say that Satan influenced him in Sura 53, the so-called Satanic verses. Sura 22:52 indicates that Satan put words and desires into not only his mouth and heart, but also into all prophets who speak their message. Though there is not a shred of evidence that prophets like Isaiah or Daniel spoke their message from Satanic influence, we should look at the bigger picture in Muhammads Quran. What was happening to the Quranic revelations at this time? He was wrong about the Old Testament and Jesus in his Quran. Do his stories about them reveal that he had tapped into the spirit world, or was he making them up on his own, or did he listen to deficient human sources? Whichever one is the case (or all of them), this is troubling.
Then, the Quran says that the jinn listen to Muhammads holy book. Some convert, while the evil ones refuse. Muhammad had no spiritual authority over this last group.
Finally, Sura 113 depicts Muhammad as taking refuge in Allah, not taking authority over dark powers. Refuge is not bad for a human messenger. But Muhammad, the founder of a worldwide religion, is supposedly the best moral example to ever walk this earth. But his subjection to suicidal thoughts and Satanic influences question his example. That is a fair and accurate (but hard) inference from the data sketched out in this section.
Muhammad at Medina
It is a fact that Muhammads confusion and Satans influence keep going after his Hijrah or Emigration from Mecca to Medina in AD 622.
1. A Jewish magician
After Muhammads Emigration, his contact with Jews increased exponentially. A large Jewish community thrived in Medina. But at least one Jew had some dark powers that overwhelmed the prophet for "a long period."
In a section titled "The Names of the Jewish Adversaries," the biographer Ibn Ishaq records a tradition that says a Jew named Labid b. Asam "bewitched the apostle of God so that he could not come at his wives" (p. 240 / 352). The translator of Ibn Ishaq, A. Guillaume, after debating in a footnote the reliability of the account and concluding that it is strong, says that the spell lasted for a year.
The hadith collector and editor Bukhari, who is considered completely reliable by devout Muslims, has the same tradition, except that Labid is a hypocrite allied with the Jews. A hypocrite is a nominal Muslim who will not jump when Muhammad cracks the whip, but mentioning Labids alliance with the Jews is calculated nonetheless to make him seem extra-evil.
This hadith is short and narrated by Muhammads girl-wife Aisha:
Once, the Prophet was bewitched so that he began to imagine that he had done a thing which in fact he had not done. (Bukhari, Al-Jizya, no. 3175; cf. Creation, no. 3268)
But the following hadith narrates more fully what no. 3175 means, which agrees with Ibn Ishaq, above. Muhammad was so deceived that he believed that he had sexual relations with his wives, though in reality he did not.
Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allahs messenger so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives when he did not. (Bukhari, Medicine, no. 5765 and 5766; cf. Invocations, no. 6391)
The hadith goes on to say that two men appeared to Muhammad (in a dream) and revealed to him that two fetishes, a comb and hair stuck in it, perpetuated the spell, and lay hidden near a well. (One tradition says that the comb had knots of hair in it; see the previous section, no. 3.) The two men revealed where the two items were, and Muhammad sent some Muslims to get them. He ordered the well to be plugged up with earth. It is odd that in the hadith just before nos. 5765 and 5766, Bukhari quotes Sura 20:69, which says that the magicians or sorcerers of the Pharaoh in Moses time will never prosper.
Apparently, though, this Jewish magician (or a hypocrite allied with Jews) prospered over Muhammad for a while, because Bukhari records a tradition that says that Muhammad was praying for relief from the spell for "a long period" (Creation, no. 3268), and we should recall that the translator of Ibn Ishaq says that the spell lasted as long as a year. It is exceedingly odd that Allah would not answer his favorite prophets prayer immediately or that Muhammad did not have spiritual authority over this Satanic attack.
Maududi in his commentary on Muhammads bewitchment believes the traditions cited in this section are genuine and that it is wrong to cast aspersions on these reliable transmitters of traditions:
The Muslim scholars of the earliest period were truly honest and upright in that they did not try to corrupt history or conceal facts . . . Now if something stands confirmed by authentic and historical means it is neither right for an honest and rightminded person that he should deny history . . . . (The Meaning of the Quran, vol. 6, p. 650)
Then Maududi says that the spell on Muhammad is confirmed:
As far as the historical aspect is concerned, the incident of the Holy Prophets being affected by magic is absolutely confirmed . . . (ibid.)
Maududi is right. Muhammad was bewitched.
2. A strange wrestling match
The following strange account of Satans attack on Muhammad shows that the human and mortal messenger (Sura 3:144) cannot simply rebuke the devil with words only. Instead, he has to get into a bizarre wrestling match with him.
The Prophet once offered Salat (prayer) and said, "Satan came in front of me and tried to interrupt my Salat (prayer), but Allah gave me an upper hand on him and I choked him. No doubt, I thought of tying him to one of the pillars of the mosque till you get up in the morning and see him. Then I remembered the statement of Prophet Sulaiman (Solomon), My Lord! Forgive me, and bestow on me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me [Sura 38:35]. Then Allah made him (Satan) return with his head down (humiliated)." (Bukhari, Actions in Prayer, no. 1210; cf. Stories of the Prophets, no. 3423).
This tradition is confusing. He wanted to tie Satan to a post so that Muslims could see him, as if to offer evidence that Muhammad is powerful. Another tradition in Bukhari has Muhammad saying to his followers on a human, relational level:
"[F]ight with anyone who passes in front of you while you are praying (i.e. prevent him violently e.g. pushing him violently), because such a person is a satan" [sic] (Bukhari, Creation, no. 3274)
A Muslim, following Muhammads advice, gets into a scuffle with another Muslim during prayer (Bukhari, Prayer, no. 509). Apparently, one Muslim walked in front of another, so they fought. The offended person specifically cites Muhammads words and called the offender "a satan" (Bukhari, Creation, no. 3274). Also, is it right for Muhammad to call a rude Muslim a "satan"? This is excessive. The rude person is really just a human. Violence and fighting are never far from Muhammads teachings, and Satan stirs up such strife.
In any case, why did Muhammad wrestle with the devil (assuming this really happened)? Since Muhammad was a prophet, he must not fight with just anyone, like a mere human adversary. He must fight Satan. His spiritual prestige and status are at stake, after all. But he should have shown Satan to his followers. Sadly, though, the evidence of Muhammads power disappeared with the spirit being.
Why was Solomon important for Muhammad in the context of dark powers? He has the misguided belief that Solomon was able to control the jinn (Suras 21:82, 34:12, and 36:37-38). Though not a single verse in the Bible supports this absurdity, it still works against Muhammad. Since Solomons prayer was answered, and one distinction of Solomon was that he ruled over the jinn, Muhammad thought that he could not or should not keep that jinn or Satan, since this was not a power that God had given to him, only to Solomon. But this means that Solomon was more powerful spiritually than Muhammad. Yet Muhammad is allegedly the last and the best of all the prophets.
All in all, this wrestling match is confusing, because Muhammads spiritual power, whatever it was, seems to show that Muhammad did not have as much power over Satan as Solomon had, even though Muhammad was "the best of the best." But on a down-to-earth level, which is always easier and clearer to interpret, Muhammads belief caused strife in some Muslims, and strife is a friend of Satan. Fighting is never far from Muhammads words.
3. Muhammads superstitions on avoiding evil powers
Besides taking refuge in Allah and quoting the Quran (see Sura 113, above, and Sura 16:98), how else does Muhammad avoid dark powers? He follows superstition. These two hadith passages represent others:
. . . If somebody takes some Ajwa dates every morning, he will not be affected by poison or magic on that day till night (Bukhari, Medicine, nos. 5768, 5769, and 5779).
Hadith no. 5779 says seven datesseven is a significant number, denoting special powers.
After Muhammad says that a crowing rooster is seeing angels, the prophet reports:
. . . [W]hen you listen to the braying of the donkey, seek refuge in Allah from the Satan [sic] for it sees Satan (Muslim, no. 6581).
Eating dates and staying away from a braying donkey? An objective interpretation of these traditions in Bukhari and Muslim must conclude that Muhammad lacked spiritual authority to resist evil. He was, in fact, superstitious. He did not offer Muslims the spiritual ability for resisting or fighting off demons or Satan. But how could he offer this when he had none of it, as Sura 72 shows in the evil jinn who refused his message? They left on their own power, unharmed, unscathed, unfrightened, and strong as ever.
For more examples of Muhammads superstitions, click on this article and read the many hadith passages.
To conclude this section, Muhammad believed that he was bewitched by a magician for a year. Reliable Islamic sources in Bukhari say that he was so delusional that he believed that he was having sex with his wives, but in reality he was not. Maududi agrees with these sources and rebukes anyone who denies them. Maududi is right. Muhammad was delusional.
Next, reliable Islamic sources in Bukhari say that Muhammad got into a physical wrestling match with Satan. But this narrative is confusing, because Muhammads spiritual power, whatever it was, seems to show Solomon having control over jinn, whereas Muhammad did not, though he was allegedly the last and greatest of the prophets. But one thing is clear on a down-to-earth level: his belief that a Muslim should become violent with another Muslim who walks in front of the first Muslim during prayer caused strife, and the devil stirs up strife. Muhammads words were cited by the feisty Muslim who bullied the rude Muslim. Such is early and authentic Islam, the one taught by Muhammad.
Finally, Muhammads advice to his followers, according to a reliable Islamic source in the hadith editor Muslim, says that they should eat dates and avoid braying donkeys, in order to avoid magic and Satan.
All of these facts reveal a prophet who seems confused or less than confident in his spiritual authority over the kingdom of darkness.
This contrasts strongly with the life of Jesus Christ.
The Three-year Ministry of Jesus
Jesus was always victorious over Satan and demons during his three-year ministry. At no time did he show the slightest fear of them. In fact, he terrified them. Blessedly, he gave his disciples the same authority and courage, so they do not have to fear evil forces.
1. Jesus decisively resists Satan during the Temptation.
The ministry of Jesus went public at the Baptism of John, where the Father affirmed his love for the Son by sending the Holy Spirit. Immediately afterwards, he is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness for the express purpose of fasting and of being tested or tempted by Satan (Matthew 4:1; Luke 4:1). Concerning this great temptation or the great test (the Greek word can be translated either way), it is important to realize that the Holy Spirit was leading him, not an evil power. The Spirit and Jesus cooperated to allow these tests. Jesus was victorious over all three of them.
First, Satan questions Jesus status as the Son of God. "If you are the Son of God, turn these stones into bread" (Matthew 4:3), but Jesus rebukes him, in his own authority and with Scripture: "It is written: Man shall not live by bread alone" (Matt. 4:4; cf. Deuteronomy 8:3). Jesus resisting the desire for bread can apply to all desires of the flesh, when suggested by Satan. Religious founders must be wary of their fleshly desires, like sex with multiple partners, justified by convenient revelations, or the quest for money and power (political or spiritual) by conquest and warboth of which Muhammad indulged in and Jesus avoided.
Second, Satan took him to Jerusalem and had him stand on the highest point of the temple, again questioning his Sonship (the very thing Muhammad does in his Quranic "revelations"). "If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down." Satan then misused Psalm 91:11-12, which says that God will give his angels command concerning him, so that he would not strike his foot against a stone. These two verses are quoted out of context, because they say nothing about throwing oneself off a high place. Thus, in his own authority Jesus rebuked the devil with Scripture: "It is also written: do not put the Lord your God to the test" (Matt. 4:6; Deut. 6:16).
Two things are to be noted about this second temptation or test.
First, as Christ was led up to a high point in Jerusalem, Satan was testing his nature or his Sonship; the Son of God was not suicidal due to despair about being called a madman or a deranged poet or about Gods absence, for the Holy Spirit (who is not Gabriel as Islamic theology wrongly teaches) was leading him, ultimately.
Second, Satan knows how to quote Scripture, even though he takes verses out of context. This serves as a hint about the Satanic verses in the Quran. Muhammad said in Sura 22:52 that Satan insinuates something into the desire of every prophet. This is true for Muhammad, but not for Jesus who is more than a prophet. Also, if Satan knows how to quote the Old Testament in a bad way, and the Quran is filled with discrepancies and errors about the Old Testament and about the New Testament, then this does not look good for the source of Quranic inspiration.
Like Satan in the temptation passage, Allah in the Quran questions the Sonship of Christ. Is this a mere coincidence? Who inspired the errors in the Quran about the Old Testament and the New Testament, especially about Jesus Christ?
The third test or temptation says that Satan led him up to a high place and showed him all the kingdoms of this worldtheir glory and political authority (exousia in Greek means political authority; cf. Luke 4:6 and 12:11, 20:20, 23:7). He offered all of this to the Son of God, if he bowed down to him, claiming that it belonged to himself and that he had the right to give it away. However, in his own authority, Jesus again rebuked the devil, citing Scripture: "Away from me, Satan! It is written: You shall worship the Lord your God and serve him only" (Matt. 4:10; Deut. 6:13). Thus, Jesus was following the Holy Spirit in allowing Satan to test him, but when Satans time was up, Jesus was decisive in his final rebuke: "Away from me, Satan!" Then angels ministered to him, but not as the Quranic Gabriel does, with physical mistreatment and oppression.
In this third test, Jesus defeated Satan with the true Scriptures and with his own spiritual authority, when the devil offered him all the kingdoms of this world, militarily, materially, and politically. By definition, "kingdom" at the time of Christ must include political authority and material resources, backed by a strong military. However, Jesus raised his vision to a spiritual transformation of the world, one soul at a time, without killing them and taking their money by military violence and bloodshed. Then his disciples went north, south, east, and west, transforming the world only by preaching a simple message, backed by their powerful and risen Lord, the Son of God.
This is the exact opposite of Muhammads path. He waged many wars to conquer most of the Arabian Peninsula, forcing people to convert or die. Backed by a strong military, he robbed them of their material resources and political authority, conveniently legalized, of course, by "revelations" in his Quran to kill and tax them. His companions finished the conquests and then stormed out of Arabia, shedding blood wherever they went. They robbed cities of their political authority and their material resources.
The Quran in 22:52 says that Satan puts desires into the heart of every prophet when they cite their message. Was Muhammad a prophet?
2. Jesus takes authority over demons throughout his ministry.
Throughout his three-year ministry, Jesus exercised spiritual authority over the kingdom of darkness, wherever he went. After the great test (Matt. 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-13) Luke records the first public encounter with a demon:
In the synagogue there was a man possessed by a demon, an evil spirit. He cried out at the top of his voice, "Ha! What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you arethe Holy One of God!" "Be quiet!" Jesus said sternly. "Come out of him!" Then the demon threw the man down before them all and came out without injuring him. (Luke 4:33-35)
Jesus cast the demons out without rituals to get knots off of ones heads and without loud pleading. Instead, he speaks a stern command: "Come out of him!" This reveals spiritual authority and decisiveness.
So how did the people react? Did they recognize his spiritual authority? Luke says:
All the people were amazed and said to each other, "What is this teaching? With authority and power he gives orders to evil spirits and they come out!" And the news about him spread throughout the surrounding area. (Luke 4:36-37)
It is imperative to understand that Jesus did not fear the kingdom of darkness. In fact, demons had to submit to him when he came on the scene, as this passage in Luke demonstrates. He was not put under a hypnotic spell by a magician under the control of Satan, even though his enemies falsely accused him of casting out demons by the power of Satan (Luke 11:14-26 and Matt. 12:24-28). Jesus replied with the famous words that any kingdom (or house) divided against itself cannot stand. If he casts out demons by Satans power, then Satans kingdom is divided. Thus, he is not exercising fearless authority through Satan.
This godly spiritual authority is exercised against Satan time and again in Jesus ministry, eventually culminating in Christs bodily Resurrection, after which Jesus says: "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me" (Matt. 28:18).
This is far different from Muhammads life since he himself admits that he came under the spell of a magician for "a long period."
3. Jesus grants his authority to all of his followers, even today.
We just read Christs words in Matthew 28:18, which say that all authority in heaven and on earth has been given to him. He gives his followers authority, as well. But before his Resurrection, he did this for seventy-two unnamed disciples when he sent them out to preach in the towns and villages before he got there (Luke 10:1-24). When they came back, they reported to Jesus their experiences:
The seventy-two returned with joy and said, "Lord, even the demons submit to us in your name" (Luke 10:17).
It is important to understand that they did not drive out demons in their own name, but in the name of Jesus. This phrase "in the name of" means "by the authority and power of" the person who commissions or sendsin this case Jesus sent and commissioned the seventy-two. This verse has never been abrogated or cancelled. So today Christians have power over Satan, but not by themselves. They have it only in Christs name or authority or power, as they serve him. Sadly, though, too many Christians do not avail themselves of this gift, or they overuse it. Either pathunderuse or overusegoes to the two extremes mentioned in the introduction to this article.
Thus, Jesus gives to all of his disciples firm and decisive authority over dark powers, in his name. He tells them to take refuge in him. He did not tell them to eat fruit to avoid magic or to avoid braying donkeys that supposedly can spot demons.
This is far different from Muhammads counsel. He advised people to do these last two things. It is unclear what someone should do if a donkey brays and a rooster crows at the same time, next to each other on a farm. The farmer should sell the donkeys, once he learns about Islam.
But enough of this silliness. The point has been made. Muhammad was superstitious, and this is not a part of Prophethood. At no time do the Biblical prophets fall under a Satanic spell cast by a magician, nor were they superstitious or hypnotized.
In the Quran, does Muhammad allow Muslims decisively and firmly to resist or cast out demons in his name? Where does it say in the Quran that Muhammad cast demons out of people in his own name and authority during his entire ministry in Mecca or Medina?
Both traditional Islam and Christianity assert that Satan is a real spirit being, and that he has a kingdom of evil spirit beings called demons (Islam adds the jinn). The two religions differ, however, in how they deal with this kingdom, in at least eight ways.
First, Muhammad was suicidal before his ministry went public. He climbed up on high crags to throw himself off. In contrast, Jesus stood on a high point, led ultimately by the Holy Spirit. Satan challenged Christs nature and status as the Son of God. Jesus was not in despair, entertaining suicidal thoughts. On the contrary, he rebuked Satan decisively and immediately.
The Quran says in 22:52 that Satan cast some evil words into the desires of all prophets while reciting their message. Reliable evidence suggests that he did this to Muhammad in his Satanic verses (Sura 53:19-20). But every prophet? Muhammad simply fabricated this accusation against them to cover up his embarrassment, implying that he was not the only one who went astray.
In contrast, the Gospels demonstrate beyond doubt that never once did Jesus speak out of the will of Satan, though his enemies falsely accused him of this. After all, Jesus does not fit into Sura 22:52 because he is more than a prophet. He is the eternal Son of God. He cast out demons; they did not cast evil into him.
Second, in the temptation passages in Matthew and Luke, Satan challenges Jesus Christs status as the Son of God. Muhammad in his Quranic "revelations" from the spirit world (but not from the true Holy Spirit) also challenges this status. Is this a mere coincidence?
Third, Muhammad could not take authority over evil jinn. He did not rebuke them, and they did not shriek at his presence, begging him not to throw them into hell. On the other hand, Jesus took authority over all evil spirits, when they came anywhere near him.
Fourth, Muhammad took refuge in Allah from evil witches and their spells (Sura 113:4). Hiding under Allah is fine for a human messenger, but this still shows some insecurity. In contrast, throughout Jesus ministry the eternal Son of God walked confidently, taking authority over the kingdom of darkness. His followers take refuge in him and in his name, and they can rebuke demons decisively and firmly.
Fifth, Muhammad says he was put under a spell by a Jewish magician (or a hypocrite allied with Jews) for "a long period." In contrast, at no time was Jesus ever put under a spell. For those who know the New Testament even casually, the idea is absurd. Suffering from magical spells or hypnotism under a magicians control is not at all part of Prophethood.
The logic is simple, following modus tollens or denying the "then" clause.
Sixth, Muhammad supposedly wrestled with Satan physically, wanting to tie him up to a pillar in the mosque. But he did not tie him up because the prophet remembered Solomons words about a large kingdom. Though this account is confusing, it seems to suggest that Solomon had authority over jinn, but Muhammad did not. This means that Solomon of the Bible is more spiritually powerful than Muhammad of the Quran. Whatever the case, it is disappointing that Muhammad did not tie Satan to the pillar, so that we could have evidence of his spiritual power to win the wrestling match. Then maybe Satan would stop bothering us.
On the other hand, Jesus never physically wrestled with Satan. He did not have to. He rebuked him with mere words in his Spirit-led and Spirit-ordained temptation scene in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke. This shows divine authority and control.
Seventh, as a human messenger, Muhammad never offered his fellow Muslims the authority to rebuke demons. In fact, where does it say in the Quran that he spent his entire ministry casting out demons from helpless and hapless victims? Instead, reliable traditions say that he was bothered by dark powers, and he said to his fellow Muslims to avoid braying donkeys. Where does it say in the Quran that he gave this spiritual authority to his followers in the same way Christ gave it to his own?
In contrast, Jesus everywhere in the Gospels rebuked demons, and he gave this authority to his followers in his name.
Eighth and finally, Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of this world, but Jesus rebuked him decisively and definitively, realizing that this is the greatest temptation for a religious founder. Thus, choosing the path of non-violence and peace, Jesus and his disciples turned the world upside down by preaching alone. They did not wage jihad against anyone who refused to submit. Constantine and the Medieval Crusaders are not foundational to Christianity. Only Jesus and the New Testament authors are.
On the other hand, Muhammad and his followers did wage military jihad on people who did not submit. A reliable hadith collector and editor, Muslim (d. 875), reports Muhammads words: "Verily, the Satan [sic] has lost all hopes that the worshippers would ever worship (him) in the peninsula of Arabia" . . . (no. 6752). It is worth noting that Muhammad subdued most of the Arabian Peninsula by military violence and bloodshed, forcing polytheists to convert or die and collecting taxes far and wide. (His primary companions Abu Bakr and Umar finished the Arabian conquests after his death in AD 632.) Muhammad was rich and powerful in the worldly sense, beyond his wildest dreams. Then the Muslim armies stormed out of the Peninsula, conquering to the north, east, and west.
Obeying Quranic "revelations" and the violent path of Muhammad, they did establish earthly kingdoms by means of armies, making blood flow in the streets and money flow back to Arabia.
Which path is the one that leads to spiritual security from the wiles and strategies of Satan?
Which path leads to genuine spiritual authority over dark powers?
Which path leads to inner peace, away from Satanic mental harassments and fears and messages from his world?
Jesus delivers. Muhammad feared, so his religion creates fear.
Other articles by James Arlandson
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