[Excerpts, with occasional modest edits, from The Real Muḥammad: In the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq, copyright 2013, TEI Publishing House. All quotations from the Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (“Life of the Messenger of Allāh”) are from the translation by Alfred Guillaume (Oxford University Press), copyright 1955. These stories are faithfully passed along from the most ancient, extant and authoritative biography of Muḥammad. All Muslims are called to imitate Muḥammad in their daily lives, and Muslim scholars know that Ibn Isḥāq is the best source for the historical Muḥammad, despite concern for various hon-historical material. The question is this: Can Muḥammad satisfy the Muslim thirst for freedom? How many people, of their own volition, would follow Muḥammad if they were free to choose otherwise? The same question is freely received by Muslims who would question Christians who follow Jesus as the Son of God]

Life of Muḥammad: The Conversion of Ḥamza, and His Violence as Muḥammad’s First Bodyguard

John C. Rankin

The conflict and insults between the opposing parties continue, and at one juncture, Muḥammad reacts and says, “Will you listen to me O Quraysh? By him who holds my life in His hand[,] I bring you slaughter.” Ḥamza b. ‘Abdul’s-Muṭṭalib, known as “the strongest man of Quraysh, and the most unyielding,” becomes a disciple, and reacts to some ill treatment where Muḥammad does not answer some insults and curses given him:

“Ḥamza was filled with rage, for God [Allāh] purposed to honour him, so he went out at a run and did not stop to greet anyone, meaning to punish Abū Jahl [who had cursed Muḥammad] when he met him. When he got to the mosque he saw him sitting among the people, and went up until he stood over him, when he lifted up his bow and struck a violent blow with it, saying, ‘Will you insult him when I follow his religion, and say what he says? Hit me back if you can!’ Some of the B. Makhzūm got up to go to Abū Jahl’s help, but he said, ‘Let Abū ‘Umāra alone, for, by God [Allāh], I insulted his nephew deeply.’ Ḥamza’s Islam was complete, and he followed the apostle’s commands. When he became a Muslim the Quraysh recognized the apostle had become strong, and had found a protector in Ḥamza, and so they abandoned some of their ways of harassing him.

Here, Ibn Isḥāq advances a theology that presages the concept of jihād or “holy war.” Namely, Ḥamza is honored by Allāh and Muḥammad for his rage, for physically attacking a man who verbally insults Muḥammad. This violent response to insult equals a “complete” Islām, as Muḥammad begins to surround himself with disciples as his defenders and bodyguards.

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