Rebuttal to Sam Shamoun's Article "Muhammad and Oath-Making: Another Example of Muhammad failing to practice what he preached"

by

 

Bassam Zawadi

 

 

 

Sam Shamoun's article could be located here.

 

 

There are two lines of approach that one could take to deal with the seemingly problematic hadith in question:

 

 

2706. It was narrated that Abu Hurairah said: "A man came to the Prophet and said: 'O Messenger of Allah, tell me, which of the people has most right to my companionship?' He said: 'Yes, BY YOUR FATHER, you will certainly be told.' He said: 'Your mother.' He said, 'Then who?' He said: 'Then your mother.' He said: 'Then who?' He said: 'Then your mother.' He said: 'Then who?' He said: 'Then your father.' He said: 'Tell me, O Messenger of Allah, about my wealth - how should I give in charity?' He said: 'Yes, BY ALLAH, you will certainly be told.'" (Sahih)

 

 

First approach is to deny that it ever occurred. Sheikh Albani in his Saleeslah Al Ahaadeeth Al Saheeha, hadith no. 4992 gives a detailed discussion and shows that the added phrase "By Your Father" is not authentic. There are several other narrations talking about this same event that have authentic chains, yet don't contain the added phrase "By Your Father". However, the narrations that do contain it do not have authentic chains of transmission.

 

The second approach is to directly confront the text and explain it somehow.

 

There are two possible ways to do this:

 

 

First

 

It is possible that the Prophet (peace be upon him) swore by the man's father before doing such a thing was declared haram by Allah.

 

Shamoun has some objections towards arguing such a position.

 

He says:

 

First, Muslims believe that the Meccans are descendants of Ishmael and that both he and his father Abraham built the Kabah and instituted the rites of pilgrimage. This means that the people would have known and been informed that such oath-making is forbidden by the God of Abraham. At the very least, Muhammad should have known this in light of his association and contact with both Jews and Christians.

 

There is no evidence what so ever to believe that the Prophet (peace be upon him) heard that oath making is forbidden by the Meccans, Jews or Christians.

 

Secondly, even if he did then why would the Prophet (peace be upon him) even care? He didn't hold them in religious authority.

 

If Shamoun wants to give me a headache as he usually does and argue that the Qur'an commanded the Prophet (peace be upon him) to obey the People of the Book, then I would be more than happy to continue refuting him on that point as I usually do.

 

Shamoun gives his second reason:

 

Second, Muslims assert that Allah protected Muhammad from all idolatrous practices even before his so-called prophetic career began. If this is the case then, surely, Allah would have prevented his messenger from committing idolatry by making an oath in the name of the fathers.

 

 

God declares and decides what breaks His law whenever He feels like.

 

God chose to allow incest with the first generation of people (how else did humans start to develop?) but decided to prohibit it later.

 

Muslims have no problem believing that bowing down to others with the intention of respect was okay in the past, yet idolatrous today since God says so.

 

Similarly, Muslims have no problem with the idea that God temporarily permitted oaths to be taken by others than Him and then later on forbade this practice.

 

Now Shamoun may argue that oath making by other than God was already haram at that time because it is declared haram in the Bible. Again, this is irrelevant since those laws were never meant to be imposed upon the Prophet (peace be upon him) or Muslims since the Islamic position is that those laws were meant for specific people in the past. Islam then came and chose what to retain from those laws in the way that it gradually did.

 

Finally Shamoun argues:

 

Third, Muhammad's slip occurred after his alleged prophetic ministry began, during the time when Muslims believe that their prophet was receiving inspiration. In fact, Muslims believe that Muhammad only spoke by way of revelation. As one Muslim polemicist puts it:

{Wa-ma yantiqu 'ani-l-huwa, in huwa illa wa'hyum yu'ha (He, Muhammad, does not speak of his own desire, it is only a revelation revealed)} (53:3-4)

Prophet Muhammad did not only speak, or 'Nataqa (in the present tense: Yantiqu)' the Quran, he also spoke the Sunnah. Abdullah Ibn 'Amr Ibn al-'Aas used to write everything the Prophet said, meaning, his Hadeeth or religious statements. Muslims from the tribe of Quraish - the Prophet's tribe - criticized Abdullah for doing this, claiming that sometimes the Prophet might say things in anger. Abdullah Ibn 'Amr asked the Prophet about it, and he said, while pointing to his mouth .

"Rather, write! For by He (Allah) in Whose Hand is my soul, nothing save the Truth comes out of it." (A Sahih Hadeeth; Sahih Sunan Abi Dawud [3646]) (Introduction to: Muhammad The Prophet of Mercy - Muhammad's Role in Islam, by Jalal Abualrub, edited by Alaa Mencke [Madinah Publishers and Distributors, First Edition: June 2007], p. 35)

If the assertion that Allah protected Muhammad from idolatry even before he claimed to be a prophet is correct then wouldn't Muhammad's lord have gone out of his way to guard his prophet from committing such a sin after the "revelation" began to descend, during the time where Muhammad was supposedly always speaking by inspiration? Should we therefore assume that Allah inspired Muhammad to make an oath in the name of somebody's father, thereby causing him to commit idolatry?

 

It is not relevant if the incident occurred after the Prophet (peace be upon him) became a Prophet at the age of 40.

 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) would gradually receive revelations for another 23 years. Thus, it is possible that for the first 10 years the Muslims might have been doing things that later on became forbidden (e.g. drinking alcohol).

 

Thus, it is irrelevant to say that this incident occurred after Muhammad (peace be upon him) became a Prophet.


Shamoun's argument would only be strong if he could prove that this incident took place
after Allah prohibited oath making by anyone besides Himself, however Shamoun was not able to demonstrate this.

 

As for Surah 55:3-4, one must understand that not every single word that came out of the Prophet's mouth is divine revelation. It is only when the Prophet (peace be upon him) claims something in a way that implies that he is receiving revelation and the verse is emphasizing the fact that he is not a liar and speaking from himself.

 

If the Prophet (peace be upon him) were to tell his wives and children that he loves them, this is not coming from God, but himself.

 

If he were to say that he disliked a certain food (he disliked eating lizards), this was only from himself and not from divine revelation.

 

The Prophet (peace be upon him) differentiated between his role as a human being and as a Messenger:

 

Saheeh Muslim

 

Book 030, Number 5831:

Rafi' b. Khadij reported that Allah's Messenger (may peace be upon him) came to Medina and the people had been grafting the trees. He said: What are you doing? They said: We are grafting them, whereupon he said: It may perhaps be good for you if you do not do that, so they abandoned this practice (and the date-palms) began to yield less fruit. They made a mention of it (to the Holy Prophet), whereupon he said: I am a human being, so when I command you about a thing pertaining to religion, do accept it, and when I command you about a thing out of my personal opinion, keep it in mind that I am a human being. 'Ikrima reported that he said something like this.

 

Thus, we should not have this misunderstanding that the Prophet (peace be upon him) was literally speaking divine revelation all the time.

 

 

Second

 

This is the position that I personally take.

 

The phrase "by your father" was a common expression amongst the Arabs at those times and the intended meaning of the phrase was not an oath.

 

Imam Nawawi argues:

 

 

قد سبق الجواب مرات عن مثل هذا , وأنه لا تراد به حقيقة القسم , بل هي كلمة تجري على اللسان وقيل غير ذلك .

 

We answered this many times before, and swearing is not intended in this expression, but it is an expression that was common, and other explanations were said. (Imam Nawawi, Sharh Saheeh Muslim, Kitab: Al Birr wal Sillah wal Aadaab, Bab: Barr Al Waaledayn wa Annahuma Ahaqqa bihi Commentary on Hadith no. 4622, Source)

 

 

Thus, the expression in and of itself could either be an oath or not depending on the intention of the one who said it.

 

This is common amongst Arabs.

 

For example, the phrase "thuqulatka ummuk" meaning "may your mother lose you" was a way of grabbing someone's attention and surely was not to be understood literally.

 

Even in some Arab countries you have expressions like "dammak khafeef" meaning "your light blooded" that signify that the person has a good sense of humour. You also have expressions such as "yikhrab 'aqlak" meaning "may your brain be ruined" that signify that the person is intelligent.

 

Thus, statements must be analysed according to the intention of the person who is speaking. They can mean completely different things just by examining the person's intention.

 

I argue that the Prophet's (peace be upon him) intention when uttering that statement was not that he was taking an oath, rather he was only using terms that were common at that time.

 

 

Shamoun must disprove all possible answers in order to have a strong argument. I say that he can't and will not do such a thing.

 

 

 

 

 

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