Does Prophet Muhammad's Contemplation of Suicide Disprove His Prophethood, Assuming He Did?
This article will be divided into the two following sections: -
1) The Reliability of the Narrations that Speak About the Prophet's Alleged Suicide Attempts
2) Even if the Narrations Were True, They Don't Disprove Muhammad's Prophethood
The Reliability of the Narrations that Speak About the Prophet's Suicide Attempts
This incident is recorded in a number of sources.
First one is in Ibn Sa'ad's book, Kitab Al Tabaqaat. The chain of transmission is Muhammad ibn Umar al-Waqidi - Ibrahim ibn Muhammad ibn Abi Musa - Dawud ibn Al Husayn - Abi Ghatfan bin Turayf - Ibn Abbass.
Problem with Narration:
It contains the infamous Al Waqidi, who has been condemned. Interestingly a Christian has done some impressive research on this individual in one of his articles and I will therefore be copying this short piece from his article...
Abd Allah Ibn Ali al Madini and his father said: "Al-Waqidi has 20,000 Hadith I never heard of." And then he said: "His narration shouldn't be used" and considered it weak.
Yahya Ibn Muaen said: "Al-Waqidi said 20,000 false hadith about the prophet."
Al-Shafi'i said, "Al-Waqidi is a liar."
Ibn Hanbal said, "Al-Waqidi is a liar."
Al-Bukhari said he didn't write a single letter by Al-Waqidi. (Siar Aalam al nublaa - althagbi - biography of Al-Waqidi)
The following Muslim author writes:
As a report of history, this narration suffers from two fatally serious defects. The first is the UNIVERSALLY RECOGNISED UNTRUSTWORTHINESS OF AL-WAQIDI. Details of his unreliability as a narrator would probably fill several pages, but all of it may be suitably condensed into a statement by Imam ash-Shafi'ee, who was his contemporary, and who knew him personally. Ash-Shafi'ee has the following to say: "In Madeenah there were seven people who used to forge chains of narration. One of them was al-Waqidi."3 (Sources: http://www.allaahuakbar.net/shiites/vicious_unscrupulous_propaganda_of_shiia-2.htm and http://www.ansar.org/english/hasan.htm; bold emphasis ours)
Al-Waqidi (130/747-207/822-23), who wrote over twenty works of an historical nature, but only the Kitab al-Maghazi has survived as an independent work. His reputation is marred by the fact that he relied upon story tellers; viz., those who embellished the stories of others. Al-Waqidi did such embellish, such as by adding dates and other details onto the account of Ibn Ishaq (at pages 25-29) (http://jeromekahn123.tripod.com/enlightenment/id3.html)
Even the English translator of Ibn Sa'd's work had this to say about al-Waqidi:
... The chain of the narrators is not reliable because the person who narrated to Ibn Sa'd was Waqidi WHO IS NOTORIOUS AS A NARRATOR OF FABRICATED hadithes. The next one Ya'qub is unknown and 'Abd Allah Ibn 'Abd al-Rahman is not a Companion. Consequently this narration is not trustworthy. (Ibn Sa'd's Kitab Al-Tabaqat Al-Kabir, Volume I, English translation by S. Moinul Haq, M.A., PH.D assisted by H.K. Ghazanfar M.A. [Kitab Bhavan Exporters & Importers, 1784 Kalan Mahal, Daryaganj, New Delhi, 110 002 India], p. 152, fn. 2; capital emphasis ours)
And the list goes on of those who called him a liar.
Al-Waqidi was also one of those that narrated the story of the Satanic Verses. The most amazing part of this is that the authors' friend, MENJ has a response on the same web site where this rebuttal appears from G.F. Haddad seeking to deny the historicity of the Satanic Verses where he calls into question al-Waqidi's reliability! Here is what Haddad says about al-Waqidi:
[(*) Muhammad ibn `Umar al-Waqidi (d. 207), Ahmad ibn Hanbal said of him: "He is A LIAR." Al-Bukhari and Abu Hatim al-Razi said: "DISCARDED." Ibn `Adi said: "His narrations ARE NOT RETAINED, AND THEIR BANE COMES FROM HIM." Ibn al-Madini said: "HE FORGES HADITHS." Al-Dhahabi said: "CONSENSUS HAS SETTLED OVER HIS DEBILITY." Mizan al-I`tidal (3:662-666 #7993).] (Source: http://bismikaallahuma.org/Polemics/haddad.htm; capital emphasis ours)
So as we can see, this narration is unreliable.
From Al Tabari's book, Al Tarikh. The first chain of transmission is Ibn Humayd - Salamah - Muhammad ibn Ishaq - Wahb ibn Keesan - Abdullah ibn Zubayr - Ubayd ibn 'Umary ibn Qatadah Al Laythi. The second chain of transmission is Ahmad b. 'Uthman, known as Abu al-Jawza - Wahb b. Jarir - his father - al-Nu'man b. Rashid - al-Zuhri - 'Urwah - 'A'ishah.
Problem with Narration
The first chain contains two weak narrators.
First one is Ibn Fadl Al Abrash and Ibn Hajar Al Asqalani said regarding him "Trustworthy, but makes many mistakes".
Second one is Ibn Humayd Al Raazi and the majority of scholars have declared him a liar.
The second chain contains al-Nu'man b. Rashid. This narrator is weak according to Al Nasai, Ibn Ma'een and Ibn 'Udai (see Tahdheeb Al Tahdheeb, Volume 10, page 425). In Tahdheeb al-Kamal, al-Mizzi states:
Imam Ahmad says: His Hadeeth are Mudtarib and he narrates Munkar hadeeths.
Yahya bin Sa'eed: he is very weak.
Bukhari: he has alot of wahm in his hadeeth.
Abu dawud: he is weak.
al-Nasai: he is weak and makes alot of mistakes
Saheeh Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 87, Hadith Number 111
Problem with Narration:
This narration is doubtful for a number of reasons.
First, there are several other sound narrations that speak about the revelation being sent to the Prophet (peace be upon him) and none of them speak about his suicide attempts.
Secondly, notice what the narration says...
Volume 009, Book 087, Hadith Number 111.
Waraqa said, "This is the same Namus (i.e., Gabriel, the Angel who keeps the secrets) whom Allah had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Allah's Apostle asked, "Will they turn me out?" Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said: "Never did a man come with something similar to what you have brought but was treated with hostility. If I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet (peace be upon him) 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 Allah's Apostle in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before. (Ibn 'Abbas said regarding the meaning of: 'He it is that Cleaves the daybreak (from the darkness)' (6.96) that Al-Asbah. means the light of the sun during the day and the light of the moon at night).
Notice that Aisha said that she only "heard" how the Prophet (peace be upon him) intended to commit suicide. We don't know who she heard this from and therefore we cannot judge whether it came from a trustworthy source or not.
Thirdly, in an authentic hadith the Prophet (peace be upon him) was asked when he felt depressed the most...
Volume 4, Book 54, Number 454:
That she asked the Prophet (peace be upon him), 'Have you encountered a day harder than the day of the battle) of Uhud?" The Prophet (peace be upon him) replied, "Your tribes have troubled me a lot, and the worse trouble was the trouble on the day of 'Aqaba when I presented myself to Ibn 'Abd-Yalail bin 'Abd-Kulal and he did not respond to my demand. So I departed, overwhelmed with excessive sorrow, and proceeded on, and could not relax till I found myself at Qarnath-Tha-alib where I lifted my head towards the sky to see a cloud shading me unexpectedly. I looked up and saw Gabriel in it. He called me saying, 'Allah has heard your people's saying to you, and what they have replied back to you, Allah has sent the Angel of the Mountains to you so that you may order him to do whatever you wish to these people.' The Angel of the Mountains called and greeted me, and then said, "O Muhammad! Order what you wish. If you like, I will let Al-Akh-Shabain (i.e. two mountains) fall on them." The Prophet (peace be upon him) said, "No but I hope that Allah will let them beget children who will worship Allah Alone, and will worship None besides Him."
Here we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) stated that the worst trouble or depression that he had ever undergone was during the time he went to the city of Taif and was rejected by the people. Yet, nowhere do we see that he tried to commit suicide after this incident. Therefore, for the Prophet (peace be upon him) to have attempted to commit suicide in the previous incident would have to mean that he was more depressed than he was after his trip to Taif. However, we see that the Prophet (peace be upon him) said that he was most depressed at this incident. This causes us to doubt the Bukhari narration even more.
Fourthly, the part of the narration given regarding the Prophet peace be upon him going on top of the mountains is reported by Imam Zuhri (d. 52-124 A.H.) who relates it from unknown sources on the authority of Aisha. There is a gap in the chain of transmission between Aisha and Imam Zuhri, thus we don't know if the missing link in the chain is a reliable narrator or not.
Shaykh GF Haddad said:
This conclusion [that Bukhari is 100% authentic] excludes the chainless, broken-chained reports, or unattributed reports sometimes adduced by al-Bukhari in his chapter-titles or appended to certain narrations. An example of the latter is the so-called "suicide hadith" - one of al-Zuhri's unattributive narrations (balaghat) which is actually broken-chained and therefore weak. It does not meet the criteria of hadith authenticity used by the lesser and greater hadith Masters, much less that of al-Bukhari who mentioned it only to show its discrepancy with two other chains whose versions omit the attempted suicide story, and Allah knows best.
The above conclusion is proof that the position that everything that is found in the two Sahihs is rigorously sound refers only to full-chained reports positively attributed to the Prophet Muhammad. (Source)
Even if the Narrations Were True, They Don't Disprove Muhammad's Prophethood
Even if the Prophet (peace be upon him) was truly depressed and attempted to kill himself, that would not disprove his Prophethood. Let's try to understand in a little more detail what allegedly happened:
Muhammad expected the revelations to guide his path from day to day, but they subsided. Gabriel did not appear for some time, and all around him there was nothing but silence. Muhammad fell into solitude, separated from himself as well as from the people. His old fears recurred. It is told that even Khadijah said to him, "Does it not seem that your Lord is displeased with you?" Dismayed and frightened, he returned to the mountain and the cave of Hira'. There, he prayed for God fervently, seeking assiduously to reach Him. Particularly, he wanted to ask God about the cause of this divine displeasure. Khadijah did not dread these days any less than Muhammad, nor was she any less fearful. Often Muhammad wished to die, but he would again feel the call and the command of his Lord which dispelled such ideas. It was also told that he once thought of throwing himself down from the top of Mount Hira' or Mount Abu Qubays, thinking what good was this life if his greatest hope therein was to be frustrated and destroyed? Torn between these fears on one hand and despair on the other, revelation came to him after a long interval. The word of God was as clear as it was reassuring:
"By the forenoon, and by the night as it spreads its wings over the world in peace, your Lord has not forsaken you; nor is He displeased with you. Surely, the end shall be better for you than the beginning. Your Lord will soon give you of His bounty and you will be well pleased. Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter? Did He not find you erring and guide you to the truth? Did He not find you in want and provide for you? Do not, therefore, oppress the orphan nor turn away whosoever seeks your help. And the bounty of your Lord, always proclaim."[Qur'an, 93:1-11]
The Call to Truth Alone
Oh, what divine majesty, what peace of mind, what joy of heart and exaltation to the soul! Muhammad's fears dissolved and his dread was dissipated. He was overjoyed with this fresh evidence of his Lord's blessing and fell down in worship to God and praise of Him. There was no more reason to fear, as Khadijah had done, that God was displeased with him, and there was no cause for his dread. God had now taken him under His protection and removed from him every doubt and fear. Henceforth there was to be no thought of suicide but only of a life dedicated to calling men unto God and unto God alone. To the Almighty God on High shall all men bend their brows. To Him shall all that is in heaven and earth prostrate themselves. He alone is the True, and all that they worship besides him is false. To Him alone the heart should turn, on Him alone the soul should depend, and in Him alone the spirit should find its confirmation. The other realm is better for man than this realm. In the other realm, the soul becomes aware of all being as well as the unity of being; and in this unity space and time disappear and the needs and considerations of this realm are forgotten. It is in the other realm that the forenoon with its brilliant and dazzling sun, the night with its widespread darkness, the heavens and the stars, and the earth and the mountains all become one; and the spirit which enters into awareness of this unity is happy and felicitous. That is the life which is the objective of this life. And that is the truth which illuminated with its light the soul of Muhammad. When revelation subsided for a while, it was this truth which inspired him anew to solicit and think of his Lord and to call men unto Him. The calling of men unto God demands the purification of oneself, the shunning of evil, and the bearing with patience all the harm and injury with which the caller may meet. It demands that he illumine the path of true knowledge for the benefit of ignorant mankind, that he never rebuke the inquisitive, and that he never reject the man in need or oppress the orphan. Sufficient unto him must be the fact that God had chosen him to convey His message to mankind. Let this message then be the permanent subject of his conversation. Sufficient unto him must be the fact that God had found him an orphan and given him shelter under the protection of his grandfather, `Abd al Muttalib, and his uncle, Abu Talib. Sufficient unto him must be the fact that God had found him in want and provided for him through his trustworthiness, and had shown him His favor by granting to him Khadijah, the companion of his youth, of his solitude and retreat, of his prophetic mission, and of love and kindness. Sufficient unto him must be the fact that God had found him erring and had guided him to the truth through His message. All this must be sufficient unto him. Let him now call to the truth and exert himself as heartily as he could. Such was the command of God to His Prophet (peace be upon him) whom He had chosen, whom He had not forsaken, and with whom He was not displeased. (Muhammad Husayn Haykal, The Life of Muhammad (Allah's peace and blessing be upon him), Translated by Isma'il Razi A. al-Faruqi, Source)
After mentioning the coming of the Revelation, the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] said: "I have never abhorred anyone more than a poet or a mad man. I can not stand looking at either of them. I will never tell anyone of Quraish of my Revelation. I will climb a mountain and throw myself down and die. That will relieve me. I went to do that but halfway up the mountain, I heard a voice from the sky saying 'O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] and I am Gabriel.' I looked upwards and saw Gabriel in the form of a man putting his legs on the horizon. He said: 'O Muhammad You are the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] and I am Gabriel.' I stopped and looked at him. His sight distracted my attention from what I had intended to do. I stood in my place transfixed. I tried to shift my eyes away from him. He was in every direction I looked at. I stopped in my place without any movement until Khadijah sent someone to look for me. He went down to Makkah and came back while I was standing in the same place. Gabriel then left, and I went back home. I found Khadijah at home, so I sat very close to her. She asked: 'Father of Al-Qasim! Where have you been? I sent someone to look for you. He went to Makkah and returned to me.' I told her of what I had seen. She replied: 'It is a propitious sign, O my husband. Pull yourself together, I swear by Allah that you are a Messenger for this nation.' Then she stood up and went to Waraqa and informed him. Waraqa said: 'I swear by Allah that he has received the same Namus, i.e. angel that was sent to Moses. He is the Prophet (peace be upon him) of this nation. Tell him to be patient.' She came back to him and told him of Waraqa's words. When the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] finished his solitary stay and went down to Makkah, he went to Waraqa, who told him: 'You are the Prophet (peace be upon him)of this nation. I swear by Allah that you have received the same angel that was sent to Moses.'" [At-Tabari 2/207; Ibn Hisham 1/237,238]
Once more, Gabriel brings Allah's Revelation
Ibn Hajar said: 'That (the pause of Allah's revelation for a few days) was to relieve the Messenger of Allah[peace be upon him] of the fear he experienced and to make him long for the Revelation. When the shades of puzzle receded, the flags of truth were raised, the Messenger of Allah [peace be upon him] knew for sure that he had become the Messenger of the Great Lord. He was also certain that what had come to him was no more than the ambassador of inspiration. His waiting and longing for the coming of the revelation constituted a good reason for his steadfastness and self-possession on the arrival of Allah's inspiration. (Saifur Rahman al-Mubarakpuri, Ar-Raheeq Al-Makhtum (THE SEALED NECTAR), Source)
The Prophet (peace be upon him) was depressed about Waraqa dying and on top of all that he was also depressed about the revelation not coming down to him for a while. The Prophet (peace be upon him) was all alone and almost everyone except a few went against him; calling him a mad poet, magician, soothsayer, crazy etc. This all affects someone psychologically. The Prophet (peace be upon him) would ignore them and feel confident about himself because of the revelation that he would receive from God. However, this 'pause of revelation', known as the Fatrah period, which according to some scholars lasted sometime between 6 months to three years made the Prophet (peace be upon him) feel lonely and depressed. Some even feel that it was only a matter of days:
Interruption of Revelation
Ibn Sa'd reported on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that the Revelation paused for a few days. [Fath Al-Bari 1/27,12/360] After careful study, this seems to be the most possible. To say that it lasted for three and a half years, as some scholars allege, is not correct, but here there is no room to go into more details. (Ibid.)
Other opinions were either 15 days or 25 days or 40 days. (See Abu 'Abdullah Al-Qurtubi, Tasfir al Jami' li-ahkam al-Qur'an, Commentary on Surah 93:3, Source)
Assuming that the hadith is truly authentic, the whole issue of the Prophet (peace be upon him) contemplating suicide really doesn't prove anything against his Prophethood. The Prophet (peace be upon him) did not go around jumping from the mountain and surviving and failing to kill himself. No, he did not throw himself because Gabriel came and stopped him. Plus who was sending down these revelations to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) anyways? If these were the words of the Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) himself or if he stole them from another source then why would the Prophet (peace be upon him) purposely do such a thing to himself? This goes to show that he was not the author of the Qur'an, nor did he plagiarize it from anyone. This Quran must have been coming from a supernatural source. Is this supernatural source Satan?
For more on this issue visit http://www.call-to-monotheism.com/is_the_quran_the_word_of_satan__according_to_the_biblical_jesus__that_s_absurd_
The Prophet's depression and then rehabilitation does not disprove his Prophethood, as a matter of fact it reaffirms it. If he was possessed by Satan then he would not have pulled through and succeeded in his mission to spread the message of God.
Read Dr. Mohar Ali's detailed response in his book The Biography of the Prophet and the Orientalists, pp. 373-386
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