Know your prophet (of doom)

Everything the imam doesnt want you to know about Muhammed.

Craig Winn: Prophet of doom. CricketSong Books (2004). 992 pages

No matter if Muhammed really existed, knowing what he stands for in Islam and just which example he sets for Muslims today is vital when discussing anything Islamic, and for understanding Islamic politics at large. This is the ambition of this quite unusual book, which is based solely on canonical Islamic sources.

It is unusual not only for its size and scope, but also for the extensive sourcing and quoting that permeate this monster of a book. With 25 chapters, plus introduction, source discussion and a large quotes section, it is close to a thousand pages, with the core narrative being around 700 pages.

Unusual is also the extensive use of the sources: Apart from a full five Quran translations, it makes use of Ibn Ishaqs biography of Muhammed, of the Muslim historian al-Tabari, and of several hadith collections. Finally, it is unusual in using massive amounts of quotes, yet creates an absorbing narrative taking the reader through the very roots of Islamic faith, culture and politics.

The publication history is unusual, too, for it was blocked by eBay and PayPal for being hateful and racist charges that the author could not honestly deny, for hate and racism permeate his source material. That, however, did not impress eBay or PayPal, who still refuse to do business with the author. Thus, the whole book has been made available as a Samizdat publication for free.

It starts with a comprehensive introduction, then dives into a story rarely told how Islam views creation in its 30+ accounts of creation. After having ridiculed tales of suns, moons, talking planets, writing pens and much more, he questions the very sense of having Islamic creation tales at all:

Among these fairytales, theres a problem. It is incumbent upon a belief system to answer the why question: Why are we here? The answer should be attached to the creation story, but Islam doesnt bother. Worse, Muhammads ultimate answer is indicting. Allah said, I have created jinn [demons] and men only to worship Me. I do not want anything from them. Islam is devoid of choice, and worship without choice is slavery.

This is quite typical for the blend of quoting and analysis throughout the book, though the author usually uses stronger words than this for what he finds and how senseless it is. The chapter on creation ends with this summary, leaving the reader at liberty to judge the soundness of the Messenger of Allah, i.e., Muhammed:

Islams delusional creation account goes on and on. The sun is brought to heaven, it is terrorized, it cries, it falls down, it prays, its veiled, it acts like a camel and races the moon, and it fears death. Tabari explains that the proof of the soundness of these statements comes directly from the Messenger of Allah.

But before getting to the actual Mohammad, the book does the reader the great and (once again) unusual favor of giving an account of the pre-Muhammedan Arabic history. That is vital, for here we find numerous accounts of Allah, Mecca, the black stone, Hajj, Umra, names such as Abd-Allah (Slave to Allah) and other traditions that were pre-Islamic, yet considered Islamic today.

When, in Chapter 6, we get to the actual Muhammed, the tales of the orphan preacher are very far from those we usually hear, of a ruthless warlord subjugating Jews and other enemies. Yet, this somewhat pitiful figure is what the Islamic scripture describes the years of Muhammed in Mecca were, according to Islamic sources, exercises in confusion, futility and changes in worship. All extensively sourced, and with references to other scholars who have worked with this material.

One might pause at the phrase changes in worship, yet this is what the Islamic accounts say, but which few, if any, have dug out as clearly as Craig Winn. In the Korans Sura 55, the first to have been spoken in public (in Mecca), Muhammed had the following to say:

I worship not that which you worship; nor do you worship that which I worship, And I shall not worship that which you worship, nor will you worship that which I worship. To you your religion and to me my religion.

At that point in (Islamic) history, though, Mohammad changed his mind and entered into a bargain connected to the so-called Satanic Verses. Craig Winn points out in detail what must have gone on here, including a marriage to a 6-year-old girl, but then the Islamic sources fall oddly quiet.

After the author has walked us through the philosophical and theological ruins of Muhammed in Mecca, which ends with the Meccans chasing him out of town, the tone of the book changes dramatically with the Hijra [exodus] to Medina, which is also considered the official birth of Islam, where things take a more diabolic turn still meticulously documented by canonical Islamic scripture.

We are dutifully taken through the midnight meeting of al-Aqabah, where the first 72 Muslims pledged absolute loyalty to Muhammed (rather than Allah), promising to defend him and wage war at any cost, including their lives and property, holding him even dearer than their own families a pledge that curiously seems active and important for Muslims everywhere even today.

Things do not ease up much as the radically transformed Muhammed puts the loyalty of his supporters to the test, during the events that gave rise to Sura 8 (The Spoils of War) and other violent parts of the Koran, progressing to the conquest of Jewish settlements around Medina, selling prisoners of war into slavery or other dehumanizing events, down to the point where Muhammed orders the decapitation of a whole Jewish community.

It may be considered distasteful as Craig Winn does to compare the Koran to Mein Kampf, an act that landed the Dutch politician Geert Wilders in trouble. Yet the Quran has more anti-Semitic passages than Mein Kampf.

One of the settlements conquered by the newly assertive Muslims was Khaybar, still commemorated by Islamist today through the battle chant Khaybar, Khaybar, oh Jews, the army of Muhammed will return.

Craig Winn also takes us through the treaty of Hudaybiyah, where Mohammad and the Muslims accepted a ceasefire lasting no longer than 10 years, then showing by numerous examples that Muslims reserve the right to break the treaty if they see fit. This arrangement is known as a hudna, and is still widely used by Islamic leaders today. Unfortunately the Western media do not seem to understand the implications.

There are plenty of other such examples of Islamic historical events justifying how Islam is practiced today, including a scathing analysis of where the so-called Five Pillars of Islam come from. One can only marvel at how comprehensive this work is, leaving out little of relevance, nor does the author skip material that would be considered holy in the Christian sense of the word.

And after taking the Islamic sources at face value, moving the reader to laughter and tears, the book closes with an extensive, critical look at these very sources. That does not draw a pretty picture of Islamic theology, neither for consistency, compassion or clarity. One might object that the book mercilessly condemns what it describes, but that is a conscious choice by the author. He deserves admiration for the time and energy he has spent investigating and explaining in such detail, and with great readability, the origins of Islam, according to Islam.

The book is available for free in several formats, including audio, at

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