Concluding the series, Rageh Omaar analyses key events of the later part of Muhammad's life, including the introduction of the Sharia moral code and the concept of jihad.
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1,400 years ago, a man born here in Mecca, in Saudi Arabia,
changed the course of world history.
If you had to rate the top people in the history of the world
as leaders, the name of Muhammad would be in the top three.
Here we have a man who began a mission.
He gave light to the world.
For one and a half billion Muslims, he is the last and greatest
of that long line of prophets who have brought the word of God to humanity.
He was not just a spiritual genius,
but he also had political gifts of a very high order.
He laid the foundations for a religion, Islam,
that after his death developed a culture and civilization that spread
around the world and inspired some of the most beautiful architecture.
But today, Islam is at the very heart of the conflict that defines our world, and Muhammad's name
is associated with some of the most appalling acts of terrorism
the world has ever seen.
Osama Bin Laden and others who have committed acts of Jihad terrorism
consistently invoke the Qur'an and Muhammad's example
to justify what they are doing.
Obedience to one true God, Allah,
and follow in the footsteps of the final prophet
and messenger, Muhammad.
Outside the Islamic world, almost nothing is known about Muhammad,
whereas for Muslims, he is the ultimate role model,
and his life is known in every detail.
So, who was he? What was his message?
And why are so many people, Muslims and non-Muslims, divided over his legacy?
In this groundbreaking series,
I will explore the many complexities
of his life story, about the revelations
he is said to have received from God,
about his many wives, about his relations with the Jews of Arabia,
about his use of war and peace,
and about the laws that he enacted when he set up his own state.
I want to examine his life and times
and understand how they still affect today's world, and whether they are a force for good or evil.
I want to uncover the real Muhammad,
the Prophet of Islam, peace be upon him.
Muhammad was born in Mecca in the year 570, into the ruling tribe
of the city, the Quraysh.
According to Muslim tradition, at the age of 40,
Muhammad received a revelation from God, the first of many
that would later become the Qur'an, the sacred text of Islam.
He preached a new message that Allah was the one God, that he, Muhammad,
was his messenger, and that all human beings would account
for their behaviour on the Day of Judgement.
He slowly built up a small band of followers, from his family, friends
and the marginalised sections of Meccan society.
But it was not a message that was always welcome.
Right from the start, Muhammad's new message brought him into conflict with the rulers of Mecca -
his own tribe, the Quraysh, who saw him as a direct threat to their control of the city.
By the time of Muhammad's birth,
the Kaaba had long been a shrine drawing people to the town of Mecca,
the centre of pagan cults for the people of Arabia.
For 13 years, Muhammad and his small band of followers
endured increasingly brutal persecution at the hands
of the Quraysh, until they were forced to leave Mecca and begin a new life in the city of Medina.
Muhammad's new-found power at the head of Medina's Jewish and pagan tribes
threatened the Quraysh's status as Arabia's pre-eminent tribe.
Several times, they tried to crush Muhammad and his followers by force.
In the final battle, it's alleged that one of Medina's Jewish tribes switched allegiances,
and in retaliation, all the Jewish men of that tribe
were massacred on charge of treason.
It was one of the most controversial incidents in Muhammad's life.
With the ending of the siege of Medina,
Muhammad had overcome the most powerful Arab army ever assembled against them and, once again,
he had humiliated his Quraysh opponents.
He had seen off all local opposition to his rule and, what's more,
he'd ensured the survival of the Muslim community here in Medina.
He was by now arguably the most powerful man in all of Arabia.
The revelations Muhammad received would go on to form the Muslim holy book, The Qur'an.
They came to him throughout his life, and every time they occurred,
it was a terrifying and exhausting experience.
He frequently had to struggle to make sense of them. Some came as words, others as visions
that needed intense concentration to understand their meaning.
He would always say that "never once did I receive a revelation
"without feeling that my soul had been torn from my body."
He'd go pale,
and he'd sweat, even on a cold day.
It's an effort to speak the word of God.
For me, the Prophet has got that sort of terrifying, brief access
to divine power, and he is using that consciousness
that sort of flooded into his body, and creating the words.
Muhammad is born into an age where it is taken for granted
that the veil which obscures the dimension of the heavenly,
the dimension of the angelic,
can be penetrated by men
of peculiar vision or holiness,
and this is taken for granted
by Christian, Jewish and Zoroastrian holy men.
And it's why people are able to accept his assurance
that he is receiving revelations from God.
It is why they are able to accept it.
This kind of spiritual experience is not normally associated with Islam.
One Muslim group, though, the Sufis,
claim to try to replicate Muhammad's mystical experience of God
through intense prayer, the chanting of God's name
and singing verses from the Qur'an.
TRANSLATION: When Prophet Muhammad was saying his prayers,
while he was mediating and communicating with God,
he used to hear the divine instructions and then act.
That's why in Sufism, and in Islam,
we also try to come close to God.
Through our rituals, we try and be one with Him.
Prophet Muhammad is an example of this.
Whatever he did during his prayers or during his daily life
is there for us to take example.
The Sufis have developed their own elaborate rituals and techniques
and, here in Turkey, they even dance.
Although there is no evidence to suggest that Muhammad followed these rituals,
the Sufis see him as an inspiration for their spiritual experience.
The Prophet as a perfect human
is very much a part
of both theological and Sufi traditions in Islam.
His perfection lies in the fact that it is only through him that one can know God.
At the centre of the ceremony is the practice of zikr,
or the repeated lyrical chanting of God's name, to bring people closer to God.
CHANTING MALE VOICE SINGS
The chanting is followed by a particularly Turkish Sufi practice
to induce a trance-like condition through dance.
Every religion generates its own diversity of spiritual practices.
Islam is no exception.
We have a number of different spiritual traditions, of which Sufism is but one.
Now, the Prophet prayed, he meditated, he contemplated,
but he also said, "Pray, but tie your camel".
That means praying itself is not good enough. You have to do good.
You have to create a healthy, better society at the same time.
Anybody who follows this spiritual tradition and does good,
and the emphasis on doing good is very, very important, is, in fact,
following the way of Muhammad.
But Muhammad's spiritual experiences were firmly rooted in the practical necessities of life.
He was not someone who retired from the world,
but worked continually to reform Arabian society.
Instead of simply waiting for paradise at the end of the world,
Muhammad tried to create his own ideal society in his own lifetime.
By 627AD Muhammad had become a powerful ruler in Medina, but by all accounts,
in his personal habits and way of life, he remained modest.
He continued to live next to his small mosque
that served both as a place of worship and a centre for his work.
Everyone was free to enter and speak with him - Jews, Christians,
non-believers, even slaves.
Reading the accounts, it is clear he is a very charismatic figure.
He is a person that numerous people came to for advice. Constantly came for advice.
But it was not just that he was dispensing sage advice, he was always listening to people.
He comes out as a very humane and warm person.
I think Muhammad does come across in many different contexts as being
quite gentle, quite reluctant to find fault.
He seemed a very fair individual.
Muslim sources talk of his simple taste in clothes and his dislike of gold or silk or other luxuries.
He did not care for possessions and gave much away in charity or as gifts.
I haven't personally detected any sign that Muhammad was guided by power.
I think his integrity remained intact.
He was scrupulous over any corruption or financial issues.
I think he stood out as a kind of exemplary human being
who could combine that moral vision with the requirements
of being a leader of a growing organization.
He is a searcher.
A searcher for truth and understanding throughout his life,
and he's a man who used the magic of his own language.
He was a genius of the Arab people, infused it with something worldwide,
to make something that humankind could understand.
Muhammad received revelations throughout his life,
but between Mecca and Medina their content changed significantly.
Whereas in Mecca the revelations dealt with inward principles of spirituality and faith,
here in Medina the revelations would be far more practical.
They provided a blueprint for how one should live life
on a day-to-day basis as a Muslim, from the social to the political -
a blueprint that many Muslims try to follow today.
Whilst in Mecca, he is very much a religious preacher.
He talks much more about issues such as the end of time.
You know, it's about morality, about justice and these kinds of things.
Once he moves to Medina, he is the functioning leader of a community.
He therefore has to get much more involved in the day-to-day running of a community,
how people interact with each other,
how people manage inheritance, how people greet each other, even.
The revelations could be quite explicit -
all Muslims should pay a tax to support the sick and needy.
Or they could be general guidelines about how to treat others to promote justice and human dignity.
Muhammad used these principles in deciding matters brought to him as the ruler of Medina.
Over time, a moral code was revealed to Muhammad, based on ideas of social justice for all.
In the Qur'an, it was called Sharia or 'the way to know God'.
We have three verses
where the concept is revealed
in one way or another,
in one form or another.
And, in fact, what was understood by the Prophet and his companions
is that what they were trying to implement was, in fact,
this way towards God.
So, this is why we have a problem of defining the word
because the scholars afterward defined Sharia as God's law,
but because they were jurists, so for them Sharia is all about law.
But what he was doing is just promoting, you know, brotherhood, justice,
This is Sharia, in fact.
What is known today as Sharia law, the sacred law of Islam, is very different.
It only came into existence two centuries after Muhammad's death, when Muslim legal experts
devised a legal code to help run the ever-expanding Islamic Empire.
They used a mixture of Qur'anic teachings and examples from Muhammad's life.
Many Muslims now regard that version of Sharia as the unalterable law of God.
The underlying principles of Islamic law appear in the Qur'an,
and there are detailed regulations relating to very specific areas,
such as inheritance, which you do find in the Qur'an.
But the Sharia itself is a human edifice constructed over time.
It's man's attempt to understand God's will and implement it.
But there are divergent views within the Sharia,
there are contradictory rulings,
and so it is certainly not a code sent down directly from God.
It's something much more flexible and fluid, and adaptive to circumstance.
In Medina, Muhammad made many radical changes to the customs of his tribal past.
He abolished the brutal tradition of blood feuds.
Women acquired a share in inheritance and secured rights to own property.
But the Qur'an also ordered more traditional penalties, such as the amputation of limbs for stealing,
although there is no evidence that Muhammad ever did this.
Many of these punishments still form part of Sharia law today.
There was the practice of female infanticide in 7th-century Arabia.
So, if you had a daughter and didn't want to take care of her
for 13 or 15 years, until someone's going to marry her,
you toss her out into the desert and she would die.
Muhammad put an end to that.
Muhammad put an emphasis on helping orphans and widows.
We would look at that and say, great, that's a great teaching.
But, certainly, we find many teachings that we would consider barbaric by today's standards.
Stoning of adulterers and adulteresses, chopping off body parts of those who steal things.
These are certain things I would regard as backwards.
Today, because we are facing the West,
because we are having a very narrow understanding,
we come with something that Sharia is, how we are going to implement
very narrow understanding of what a marriage is, of what punishments are,
and I think that this is not the way.
And this is why I am saying today if I am speaking about Sharia,
I live in the West and in the West,
we have laws where you and me, we are equal before law. This is my Sharia.
This is where we have to come with a better, a deeper understanding
of the very essence of Sharia.
Some Muslim states, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, base their entire legal system on Sharia law,
with punishments that many regard as medieval in their brutality.
So, calls by Muslim extremists to introduce Sharia law in Europe
and in Britain have led to street protests
and the rise of political parties
campaigning against what they see as the spread of Islamic influence.
This is the problem - that in the 21st century,
we still have nations who are beheading people,
who are cutting the limbs off people,
cutting the hands and feet.
There are women today being stoned to death by the government
for sexual violations, not for murder.
It's not for a crime of taking someone else's life.
It's an inhumane way of killing.
All these people who are stoning the people and are just starting with punishments say this is Sharia.
I say no, that's not Sharia. This is the way you are instrumentalising religion for your own sake.
I have one question. How have you been elected?
Are you elected? Are you representing the people?
Let me start with the first question because you have no legitimacy, no way for you to implement this
in the name of Islam, if you are not legitimate.
Many of the people who do, and start with this, are not really elected,
and are not chosen by the people, so their own status, it's important.
And then there is a second question, what about social justice?
What about equal rights? What about education?
Are you going to punish people without educating them?
Is this Islam? No. Islam is starting with education.
And as for the punishment, it's another story.
Don't start with punishment, start with dignity and rights.
Not with punishment, because punishment is the way
you instrumentalise religion just to make yourself be legitimate while you are not.
Like all law, Sharia law, at least in theory, is supposed to be a changing, evolving institution,
but what we have under the rubric of Sharia law today
is actually frozen in history.
It is the interpretations of jurists
undertaken during the 8th and 9th century.
That is what we call Sharia law.
That's why wherever Sharia law is implemented
it recreates the conditions of the 8th and 9th century.
What the Muslims need to do is to reformulate Sharia law,
and this reformulation has to be continuous and constant.
Because the word Sharia itself means "the way to the watering hole".
Why do you go to the watering hole?
To drink water. It is something that we need to drink all the time.
That means it has to be refreshed, rethought and reformulated from epoch to epoch.
It was now 627 AD.
Muhammad had a secure power base in Medina.
Although he had frustrated all the efforts of his enemies, the Quraysh,
to destroy him, they were still powerful and in control of Mecca.
If Muhammad was to succeed in bringing his message to all the people of Arabia,
he had to find a solution to break this stalemate.
One of the key lessons from the battles for Muhammad
was that he was going to find it very difficult
to overcome the Meccans militarily.
He had to try to undermine them politically.
What he needed was to strike alliances with other tribes across Arabia.
And one of the key ways of doing this was through marriage.
For Muhammad's critics, his polygamous marriages have always been a problem.
But at that time in Arabia, polygamy was the norm,
and it wasn't until after the death of his first wife
that Muhammad had several wives at the same time.
Some accounts say nine, others 11 or 13. Some were widows.
Some were women captured after battles who, by marrying him, were granted their freedom.
One was even a Christian Coptic slave presented to him by the Byzantine ruler of Egypt.
But his most controversial marriage was to the daughter
of his closest companion, a young girl called Aisha.
According to some sources,
Aisha is supposed to have been betrothed at age six or seven,
then formally married at nine.
Other accounts make her older, nearly 16 or 17.
It's this lack of clarity that has left Muhammad open to serious condemnation from many critics.
If you are a 53-year-old man,
and you take a nine-year-old girl
into your bed and consummate the marriage, it is not all right.
Not only from the standpoint of 21st-century morality
of the Western world, but of, what one might say, natural morality
of most societies, most of the time.
My position on this is that she was older.
She was between 16 and 18, and not six and nine.
So these are scholars of today, but not today,
in fact last century, trying to get a sense of that might be.
We are repeating this, but this is not really true, it is not something
which is in the Qur'an, is in the prophetic tradition, and we have to check about this,
and I would say that age here is problematic in itself.
Muhammad's marriage to Aisha lasted till his death.
And she later became a prominent political leader in her own right.
Muslim historians claim that it was her differences with Muhammad's cousin and son-in-law Ali
that eventually led to the great schism in Islam between the Sunni and the Shia sects.
The real point in this, and that is lost in all this argument,
is who was Aisha - what did she become?
She grew up in the Prophet's household to become a really feisty,
independent, intelligent, politically aware woman.
And she is a foundation of our understanding of the Prophet's life.
Without Aisha, half of what we know of the Prophet disappears.
A series of further revelations defined Islamic marriage.
They also provided Muhammad's critics with more ammunition, as they said that while Muhammad
was allowed to keep all his wives,
in future, Muslim men would only be allowed a maximum of four wives,
as long as they could support them and treat them all equally.
We have to understand the Prophet Muhammad in the context of his time.
Pagan Arabia is a place where there is unlimited polygamy,
that is the normal practice.
Islam comes, and limits that polygamy.
For Muslims, it is limited to four wives.
The Prophet is allowed, and the Prophet is previously married up to nine wives.
He is also prohibited from adding any more to that number,
but those wives that he is married to, he is allowed to keep.
And there is a simple reason for that - the importance of building tribal alliances.
This is very, very important.
The Prophet is not only a prophet, he is a leader of his people
and building those alliances is hugely important.
Now, the justification for Muhammad having more wives is sura 33:50,
which gave Muhammad, and only Muhammad, permission to marry as many women as he wanted to marry,
and we have to be somewhat sceptical.
So many people have claimed to be prophets, when we look at a prophet and his revelations give him
more sexual partners than anyone else is allowed to have, I say we have some reason for suspicion here.
It would be entirely mistaken to imagine the Prophet
basking decadently in a garden of earthly delights.
These are political marriages.
He marries Aisha because he wants to bind himself more closely with their fathers.
He's creating a new community, not based on tribe or blood,
but somehow, this helps to make the transition easier, if you make a marriage link.
We know from Muslim sources that some of Muhammad's marriages
even caused him problems during his own lifetime.
For example, when he married the divorced wife of his adopted son,
his enemies spread rumours that it was an incestuous relationship
in an attempt to divide the Muslim community.
His marriage to his former daughter in law, Zaynab bint Jahsh,
when he married her, it's clear that there were protests
from the community and people thought that this was a shocking,
scandalising kind of thing for him to have done.
According to the sources, Muhammad faced another marital crisis when Aisha went missing during a journey.
She was eventually found and brought back to Medina
by a man who had known her before her marriage to Muhammad.
Again, his enemies spread rumours
that something scandalous must have happened between them.
According to Muslim tradition,
Muhammad himself was at first unsure who to believe, but, eventually,
after a new revelation from God,
he accepted Aisha's protestations of innocence.
At that time in Arabia, adulterers were traditionally stoned to death.
This new revelation defined how any future allegations of adultery should be dealt with,
and, surprisingly, in complete contrast to the extreme views held by groups like the Taliban.
The punishment of stoning to death was borrowed from Christianity and Judaism.
From the Old Testament, of course, as we know.
In the Qur'an, punishment for having sex outside marriage
is lashing 100 times on your backside.
Only if it can be proven that four people have seen the act of penetration,
which is very difficult to prove.
Muhammad's wives lived with him in specially built rooms adjoining the courtyard of his mosque in Medina.
It was a very busy public place, and privacy was hard to find.
With the continual attempts of Muhammad's enemies to create division,
the potential for future scandal was always there, so something had to be done.
One day Muhammad received a new revelation that instructed his wives
to cover themselves to maintain their modesty.
This act of veiling or covering has had a profound effect
on Muslim women and, also, how the outside world
views Islam's attitudes to women in general.
There are injunctions about the Prophet's wives
wearing some kind of covering.
It's not exactly clear what that covering is, but it's to distinguish them.
And this is all part and parcel of the difficult divisions in Medina,
because Muhammad's enemies in Medina were using his wives to discredit him
and so some kind of distinction needed to be made, but veiling was not for all women.
Today, the veil is seen by Islam's critics as symbolic
of its attitude to women in general and its desire to oppress them.
But the more universal veiling of women did not become an Islamic custom
until more than 100 years after Muhammad's death.
As far as the religion is concerned, there is a requirement of modesty
for both men and women,
but how you fulfil that requirement is open to debate.
I don't feel I am compromising myself as a Muslim by not wearing the hijab,
and I certainly don't not wear it,
because I am trying to say that I am not a serious Muslim.
You can't judge the seriousness of someone's faith and belief
by what they wear.
Over the last 20 years, in Britain as in many Western countries,
the veil has become a form of identity for many Muslim women.
Some just cover their hair, others their entire face.
It is a controversial issue,
with some European countries now banning women from using the veil.
Fatima Barkatullah is a writer on Islamic women.
Fatima, are you wearing the veil because
you are obliged to because of your family,
or do you do it out of free will?
For me it is absolutely 100% free will.
It's very much about a spiritual journey
and about wanting to be the best I can be,
in God's eyes.
When I'm getting ready in the morning to go out,
I will just cover what I would normally be wearing, you know,
whether it's jeans or whatever I am wearing, with something like this.
-Which is a gown, essentially, isn't it?
-Yes. It's an outer garment.
People call it the abaya or the jilbab.
And then I wear this, which is a khimar,
or a scarf. And then I wear this small face veil.
This is very much my public face, if you like.
But why do you choose to wear the full face covering as opposed to this, the khimar, the scarf,
which you see a lot of other Muslim women wearing, as well?
I believe that the more modest I can be, the more of a virtue it is.
So, essentially, I'm doing it to please God.
Where do you think this comes from?
-Is it in the Qur'an? Is it in the...
-Yes, you'll find it in the Qur'an.
The verse in Surat Ahzab clearly says, "O Prophet, tell your wives, your daughters
"and the women of the believers," meaning the Muslim women,
when they go out of their homes they should wear their outer garments,
and the word in Arabic is jalabeeb,
-which has two orthodox interpretations.
-That's the point. This is all an interpretation.
There isn't anywhere in the Qur'an which says it is a rule for Muslim women that they must wear a veil.
It's in the interpretation.
As far as the face is concerned, there is some difference of opinion.
The one verse that specifically does deal with clothing
actually says cover your nakedness,
not shroud yourself in a black bag.
Now, Muslim women have interpreted it,
Muslim men have interpolated practices from other societies
into the interpretation of the religion, and identity politics
has a great deal to do with it.
But I say women should be free to choose,
but there is no compulsion, and there is no requirement for them to veil themselves.
Despite the best efforts of his enemies to discredit him through his marriages,
Muhammad had used them to confirm and widen his power base in Arabia.
He could now turn his attention again to Mecca.
In early 628 AD, he told his followers
that they were going to set out to perform the annual Hajj rites at the Kaaba in Mecca.
For Muhammad and his followers,
the Kaaba had become central to their worship, the place to which they turned in prayer.
They believed it had been originally built by the Prophet Abraham,
and regarded it as the ultimate symbol of their faith, the unity of the one God, Allah.
But access to the Kaaba was controlled by Muhammad's enemies, the Quraysh, the rulers of Mecca.
It contained shrines to the hundreds of gods worshipped by all the tribes in Arabia.
Muhammad was now determined to challenge their control of this sacred shrine.
The Prophet announces that he is going to make the Hajj.
It must have been astonishing because on the Hajj you are not allowed to carry weapons.
He was going unarmed into the enemy territory.
It's when, again, you touch the magic of Muhammad as a man.
He fought wars and now he just said, right, we're off to pray to God.
Muhammad and the convoy of followers were forced to stop here
at Hudaibiya, which is about eight miles outside of the Holy City,
because the Quraysh had reacted with characteristic aggression
and they had sent a cavalry in order to stop the convoy.
And so began a series of frenetic negotiations with emissaries going between Muhammad and the Quraysh.
They eventually arrived at an agreement, but the so-called Treaty of Hudaibiya,
signed at a spot marked by the mosque just behind me,
looked like the most humiliating of compromises for Muhammad.
The Quraysh insisted that Muhammad and his followers return to Medina
without performing the Hajj rites.
They also insisted that all raids on Meccan caravans
by the Muslim forces under Muhammad's command should stop.
In return, they would allow Muhammad and his followers to return to Mecca
as pilgrims to perform the Hajj, but only in the following year.
And when it came to signing the documents which describes Muhammad as "the Messenger of God",
the Quraysh emissary objected, saying that to them he was only "Muhammad, the son of Abdullah".
For Muhammad's followers, this was an unbearable insult.
According to Muslim tradition, when Muhammad's young cousin Ali, who was doing the writing,
heard this he refused to strike out the words "the Messenger of God".
Muhammad says, "Give me the pen" - point out the words "Messenger of God", and he strikes it out himself.
I see it as a striking out of ego there, not standing on your rights.
The Qur'an says that if the enemy asks for peace you must lay down
your arms immediately and accept any terms, however disadvantageous.
For Muhammad's followers, the terms of this treaty,
and the treatment of Muhammad, were completely humiliating.
It was only Muhammad's adamant attitude that kept them from mutiny.
What Muhammad was trying to do was totally unheard of in 7th-century Arabia.
In a society of honour, traditionally, blood feuds ruled the day.
But after years of bloody but inconclusive conflict, Muhammad
now wanted to defeat his enemies not through war, but by peace.
By signing a truce with the Quraysh,
he had not only gained access to the Kaaba, albeit at a later date,
but also extracted from them the crucial acknowledgement
that he and they were now equals.
In a sense, the Hudaibiya does represent a minimal option, which is,
OK, we can't get what we want now,
but we can get it in the future, if we make this agreement.
And a truce in which people were not fighting was always preferable to war.
This is, again, something which is Qur'anically given, that, you know,
peace is better than war.
It's repeated again and again.
So, it very much fits within that particular type of principle.
As he and his followers were returning to Medina,
Muhammad received a new revelation,
confirming that the Treaty of Hudaibiya was a not a humiliating defeat.
He said, "I've just had a revelation. This was a manifest victory, says God.
"It may have looked like a defeat, but it was a manifest victory."
The Quraysh were filled with all the violence
of the old tribal spirit.
They were filled with contempt and pride.
It was the Muslims, the spirit of peace that filled their hearts.
Sometimes this is forgotten. We hear all about Muhammad's wars,
but we forget this extraordinary, non-violent offensive.
After Hudaibiya, the tide had turned in his favour
with a campaign of non-violence.
A primary vehicle that Muhammad did use was diplomacy at the time.
He went out, visited the tribes,
engaged with major religious leaders, attempted to form pacts,
created, if you look at the community at Medina, created a space for other faiths and other people.
But when faced with resistance or aggression,
did exactly what the standards of the time would have legitimated.
And I think that that is clearly there.
You do not see the Prophet consistently
calling for wholesale killing
of all those who disagreed with him.
The Treaty of Hudaibiya marks a turning point in Muhammad's attempts
to spread his message throughout Arabia.
But it also shows that he was prepared to suffer the utmost humiliation
from his worst enemies in pursuit of peace.
And yet in today's world, the most commonly held views of Muhammad
is that he is the enemy of peace,
and that Islam is the religion of Jihad,
commonly taken to mean "Holy War".
Thousands have been killed all over the world by groups that are now called Jihadi,
a term never used in Muhammad's time.
And yet, these groups all claim the Qur'an and Muhammad himself
as inspiration and justification for their actions.
It is very clear, brothers and sisters, that the path of Jihad
and the desire for martyrdom was deeply embedded
in the Holy Prophet
-and their beloved companions.
-Most so called Jihadis usually refer
to a verse in the Qur'an, now known as the Sword Verse,
as justification for their violent acts.
If you come back to the Qur'an, you have these verses, no one can deny
that there are verses very, very much dealing with war and violence.
Now, as we have to deal with the Qur'an, it's an eternal book dealing with history.
These verses were revealed in a very specific period of time
when the Muslims were under oppression and trying to resist
and just to survive.
So, we have to contextualise this.
The mainstream classical tradition, in the Shia and the Sunni tradition, are saying you can't use these verses
just to promote war and to kill innocent people, this is wrong.
The interpretation of individual Qur'anic verses goes to the heart of this controversy,
but most scholars now agree that the term Jihad does not mean Holy War.
Its real meaning is completely different.
The concept of Jihad emerges out of the Holy Qur'an,
out of the revelation that the Prophet receives.
And there are about 35 examples in the Qur'an of the word "jihad",
or the term basically being used, and often in the case of striving.
Now striving can be all sorts of things.
It can be striving against the baseness of oneself.
It can be a seeking to overcome evil and being good.
It can be striving in the sense of fighting.
But Jihad is always distinguished from fighting,
and a different terminology is used for the word "fighting".
In all the battles that Muhammad fought, the rules of engagement were
always carefully delineated within the context of his time and what was generally acceptable.
But there are no recorded instances
of deliberate attacks on civilian populations.
One of the points about Jihad in the early Islamic tradition,
both in the Prophet's lifetime
and afterwards, is that it's is a gradual evolution of an idea
towards something like a just war.
And the just war is a constraint on the army, does not attack or massacre the civilians,
doesn't kill women or children, doesn't kill priests of other religions incidentally, and so on.
And this draws on the practice in the lifetime of the Prophet.
These rules of engagement appear to have been forgotten by today's Muslim extremists.
Suicide bombers kill people not only in Western cities,
but also in mosques and other places of worship
in the Muslim world itself.
In Britain today, no Muslim activist or group will openly defy the law
by accepting or agreeing to the use of violence.
But over the last 10 years,
more than 200 Muslims have been convicted of terrorist-related offences.
In 2008, Abdul Muhid was convicted and jailed
for two years for terrorist funding.
Mizanur Rahman was charged for soliciting murder
and jailed for four years in 2006.
Both have now served their sentences,
but still have strong views about the role of Jihad in today's world.
Has the modern interpretation of Jihad changed in any way?
Because, for most people today, Jihad means just one thing
doesn't it, it means fighting and the physical struggle?
The scholars of Islam in the past,
they all agreed that Jihad means fighting against the non-Muslims,
yes, but not just for the sake of forcing them to be Muslim, but to make the word of Allah
the highest by removing obstacles from the implementation of the Sharia
and for the call to Islam to spread across the world.
From your interpretation of the Prophet's life,
is it permittable at any time in Jihad to attack non-combatants?
If I just cut straight to the point,
the argument of Islamic terrorists is this, if you choose a government
that represents you and they decide to bomb a country or kill people, then you have blood on your hands.
It's like hiring, for example, a murderer.
If I pay a murderer to go and kill someone it's not just the murderer who is blameworthy.
I share that blame. So, if you say by non-combatants, these people voted
for a government that is carrying out crimes, then they share the blame.
And, obviously in the eyes of the Islamic terrorists, they are blameworthy.
These ideas are abhorrent to Muslims and non-Muslims,
and would have been unrecognisable to Muhammad.
For him, the concept of Jihad was not just simply about killing and war,
but it was about striving to improve yourself in the eyes of God.
There is the concept of just war in Islam,
and Muhammad himself fought many battles, but for him,
there was no justification of the killing of innocent people.
The Qur'an verses that talk about fighting and defending yourself
don't legitimize killing yourself deliberately
and killing others in that process.
Remember, in Islam, collateral damage is not allowed.
Intentionally bombing a group of people, assuming that your target
would be killed, as well as others
and the others would be collateral damage, is completely disallowed in Islam.
Muhammad's peaceful Jihad was now about to come to fruition.
Under the terms of the Treaty of Hudaibiya he could embark on a journey that would take him back
to the city of his birth, the city he had left nearly seven years ago as a refugee,
penniless and in fear of his life.
He was returning as the head of an ever-expanding religious community,
the most powerful leader in Arabia.
In February 629, Muhammad agreed with the Quraysh
to be allowed back into Mecca in order to visit the Kaaba.
The Quraysh agreed to allow Muhammad and his followers into the Kaaba for three days.
And yet, during that time, it marked a change in people's perceptions
towards Muhammad and his followers.
The people of Mecca saw the Muslims enter the Kaaba,
and observed how well behaved they were, how sincere they were,
and it was important because it showed that slowly but surely,
the stranglehold of the Quraysh in Mecca was beginning to crumble.
A year later, the Quraysh broke the truce by attacking one of Muhammad's allies.
It was a fatal mistake.
In January 630, the Prophet gathered a massive army of 10,000 men
and marched towards Mecca.
The Quraysh were powerless to resist
and they fully expected Muhammad to storm into Mecca
and exact a bloody revenge for the many years of persecution and war.
Their control of city was at an end.
But it was what he did next, in this, hour of ultimate victory,
that left people stunned.
Muhammad declared that he forgave all his former enemies.
He then said that there was to be a general amnesty
and he said that no-one was to be forced to convert to Islam.
Instead of revenge, Muhammad consciously chose reconciliation.
The conquest of Mecca is very important,
because there was a wide-ranging amnesty given,
and people were given options of accepting the faith,
or going elsewhere, or whatever.
But, certainly, there was this notion that, OK, once Mecca is taken,
and Mecca is considered to be the cultic centre now of this new faith,
that certainly the first stage of the mission is complete, so there's no need for fighting.
For Muhammad, this was the moment he had been waiting for.
He had come back to Mecca not to kill the Quraysh,
but to restore the Kaaba to its role as the sacred shrine to the one God.
According to Muslim tradition, when he and thousands of his followers
entered the Kaaba they destroyed the many gods and effigies placed there.
He pardons the Meccans, but he doesn't just pardon them, he pardons
them with kindness and he almost drowns their criticisms with gifts.
And there is that sort of wonderful instance of just the tribal sheiks,
who had never really opposed and never listened to his message,
all they wanted was cattle, more camels and more silver, and he gives it to them.
It seems to me that's the heart and the essence of the life of the Prophet.
The moment it was building to.
From what I understand and know of the personality of the Prophet,
it is the most characteristic moment in his entire life.
He was not a vengeful man.
His message was not about vengeance,
but about constructing a transformative, reformative process,
building society by including everybody.
So, it seems to me that when he came back to Mecca,
that's when I say, yes, that's the point from which we begin, that's the model we need to build on.
And then he goes home.
There is no attempt to impose what we'd call today an Islamic state.
So, we're not talking about doctrinal conformity, we're talking about
ending this tribalism which sets people off against one another.
Although Mecca was now his, Muhammad chose not to move back to the city of his birth.
Instead he returned to his adopted home, Medina.
And with the Quraysh defeated,
it wasn't long before the rest of Arabia joined his cause.
Muhammad's bloodless conquest of Mecca was clear proof
that his movement was succeeding.
And, what's more, his message of justice and using peace and reconciliation as a means
of delivering that message was beginning to attract huge numbers of converts.
In fact, tribes were beginning to convert wholesale.
By 631, the last pagan stronghold of Taif fell.
Now Muhammad was effectively the ruler of the whole of Muslim Arabia.
More than 20 years had passed since he had received his first revelation.
For over a decade, he and his followers had eked out a precarious existence.
Time after time, they had been on the verge of destruction,
but they had managed to survive through a combination
of Muhammad's spiritual, military and political leadership, and, finally,
after a seemingly humiliating treaty, to triumph over their enemies.
Muhammad expressed and exemplified the qualities that we now
see universally are characteristic of a good leader and a leader for good -
then the combination of toughness
and demandingness and fairness is important in leaders universally,
and Muhammad had all those attributes very clearly.
I think warmth, humanity, kindness is important, too.
And, again, if you look at the traditions of the life of Muhammad,
there are plenty of examples where he showed those humane qualities.
By the year 632, Muhammad had achieved almost all that he had set out to achieve.
He created a level of peace and security Arabia had rarely known.
He laid out the foundations and rules of Islam
and he created the foundations of a new Muslim community.
But by this time, he was 60 years old and his health was beginning to fail.
In that year, he came to Mecca for the last time and he performed his first and only Hajj, The Pilgrimage,
and he gave what would become known as the "farewell sermon".
Sitting here on a camel, on the Plains of Arafat,
he spoke to a vast crowd with strategically placed announcers relaying his words.
It was a deeply emotional speech in which, in his own words,
Muhammad summarised what he felt he and his followers had achieved.
"O People! Lend me an attentive ear,
"for I know not whether after this year I shall ever be amongst you again.
"Therefore, listen carefully to what I am saying and take these words
"to those who could not be present here today".
You see in the final sermon
this heartfelt plea from the Prophet warning the Muslims
about certain things, advising them about certain things.
You can see his worries for the future of the Muslims
and these words are something that they should take note of,
and they should hang onto, and they should be aware,
because in here is a very, very important message for every Muslim.
"Do not therefore do injustice to yourselves.
"Remember one day you will meet Allah and answer your deeds.
"So beware - do not astray from the path of righteousness after I am gone".
Remember what God's earliest message was,
to Abraham, to Adam,
to Moses, to Jesus, etc.,
and remember that the only real reality,
the ultimate reality, is the one true God,
and that God is the creator,
sustainer and judge of the universe.
"All mankind is from Adam and Eve.
"An Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab,
"nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab.
"Also, a white has no superiority over black,
"nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action".
He is saying all humans are one.
God has called you from the tribalism of paganism
and it's pride in ancestors, but, remember, all men came from Adam and Adam came from dust.
And then he quotes these words from the Qur'an which really speak to our time.
"O, people", God says to humanity,
"we have formed you from a male and a female and have formed you
"into tribes and nations so that you may get to know one another,
"not so that you may fight, or oppress, or occupy, or convert or terrorise,
"but so that you may get to know one another."
"All those who listen to me shall pass on my words to others,
"and those to others again, and may the last ones understand my words better
"than those who listen to me directly.
"Be my witness, O Allah, that I have conveyed your message to your people".
And he asks them, "O, people, O, Muslims, have I fulfilled my mandate to you?"
And they cry, "Na'am!",
"yes", and it rings around.
And he asks them three times, have I,
and each time they reply, "Na'am!"
And I think it's a most moving moment.
Well, that's the summation of his life,
so he emphasises all the principles that he has been teaching for the last 23 years.
He says, for example,
there is no difference between Arab and non-Arab, look after your family,
so it's kind of summation of his life.
If you did nothing else but simply read the last sermon, you will get the essence of the life of Muhammad.
The Prophet's final sermon sets the agenda
for modern, contemporary Muslim society.
It shows were we've failed,
and it shows were we have to try to get to.
It sums up the transformative mission that was the life of the Prophet.
After his farewell pilgrimage,
Muhammad returned to his small house in Medina, exhausted.
He'd begun to have headaches and fainting fits.
He tried to attend public prayers in the mosque,
but was more and more confined to his bed, where Aisha nursed him.
One day he appeared to get better and the news spread like wildfire around the oasis.
But it was only a brief reprieve.
On 8th June, 632, Muhammad died in the house of his wife Aisha.
The news stunned his followers.
Some refused to accept the truth.
Panic began to take hold.
How could the Messenger of God be dead?
His closest companion, Abu Bakr,
calmed their fears, reminding them that Muhammad had never claimed
to be anything other than a mere mortal and that only God
is to be worshipped, not Muhammad.
He was buried here next to his mosque, his face
turned towards Mecca, a practice still common today among Muslims.
Within 100 years, Muhammad's message had spread across the world,
as far as India and China in the east, and as far North Africa,
Spain and France in the west.
But, in many ways, his struggle for a peaceful Jihad was already in tatters.
Within just a generation of Muhammad's death, his closest companions and family
were already squabbling, breaking out into open and bloody warfare
that led to the deep schism
that still exists within the Muslim world today between Sunni and Shia.
But today, Muhammad's message seems under threat like never before.
Many Muslims feel humiliated and condemned by the sheer power of Western culture and military might,
whilst many in the west see Islam
as the religion of some of the most oppressive states on Earth,
a violent, intolerant faith. But the question is, how much of this
can be blamed on Muhammad himself?
Muhammad left the world with three things - his faith in God,
the example of his own life and, above all else, the Qur'an itself.
Now, people will always choose and highlight those aspects of his life
they want to support their own arguments whilst ignoring the rest.
But if we examine his life in total,
we find that he left Arabia a better place than he found it.
When faced with persecution,
he chose to suffer rather than to retaliate.
Although he fought many military battles, he turned his back on war when he could.
His ultimate victory came through peace, not through conflict.
And with that victory, he chose the path of reconciliation,
rather than revenge.
And, finally, in his farewell sermon, Muhammad left us with the most important lesson of all,
that we are all equal, Arab and non-Arab, Muslim and non-Muslim.
A universal message that is as relevant today
as it was in 7th-century Arabia, and it seems to me
this is the true legacy of the life of Muhammad.
Subtitles by Red Bee Media Ltd
E-mail [email protected]
In the final episode of The Life of Muhammad, presenter Rageh Omaar continues to chart the story of The Prophet Muhammad. Drawing on the expertise and comment from some of the world's leading academics and commentators on Islam, Omaar analyses and investigates key events during the later part of his life, including the introduction of a moral code known as Sharia and the concept of Jihad. The programme also explores Muhammad's use of marriage to build alliances, and looks at the key messages included in his final sermon.
In line with Islamic tradition the programme does not depict any images of the face of Muhammad, or feature any dramatic re-constructions of Muhammad's life.