[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]

Pattern Establishes Itself in the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq

John C. Rankin

Early in Ibn Isḥāq’s narrative, we see a building pattern he embraces –

  1. Islām intrinsically mocks pagan gods from the outset;
  2. Pagans and Jews mock Islām in response;
  3. Muḥammad gives directives for violent responses; and
  4. Military war follows.

He then attributes the first hundred verses of Sūra 2 (Al Baqarah or “the cow”) to these “rabbis and hypocrites,” a Sūra that covers language in invitation to Islām, a statement of freedom from religious compulsion (2:256), but also an initial call to jihād or holy war in 2:190: “Fight in the cause of Allah those who fight you.”

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