Muhammad’s Arbitrary Moral Guidelines

Abdullah Sameer
7 min readMay 7, 2018
Muslims praying, Delhi, 1942. Source: Wikimedia Commons

Muhammad’s rulings colour the lives of billions of Muslims all over the world. Their entire lives are affected by the rulings he came up with on the spur of the moment. Yet they are considered to be universal rulings that apply for ever and ever.

Interestingly, in a verse of the Quran Allah accuses Christians and Jews of worshipping their monks and rabbis:

“They have taken as lords beside Allah their rabbis and their monks and the Messiah son of Mary, when they were bidden to worship only One Allah.” (Quran 9:31)

One of the Christian converts to Islam Adi ibn Hatim argued this wasn’t true. So Muhammad explained that obeying them was in fact worship:

Narrated ‘Adi bin Hatim:

“I came to the Prophet (ﷺ) while I had a cross of gold around my neck. He said: ‘O ‘Adi! Remove this idol from yourself!’ And I heard him reciting from Surah Bara’ah: They took their rabbis and monks as lords besides Allah (9:31). He said: ‘As for them, they did not worship them, but when they made something lawful for them, they considered it lawful, and when they made something unlawful for them, they considered it unlawful.’” (Tirmidhi, Reference 1)

Muslims don’t consider obeying Muhammad to be worship. Is it not hypocritical to accuse Christians and Jews of worshipping their leaders and then in the same breath claim you aren’t worshipping Muhammad by doing the same thing?

Islam carried over Many ancient Arab ideas into the religion

The first example is foster parenting: If a woman suckled a child a certain number of times that woman would become like a mother to the child. Any children she had would become like brothers and sisters and forbidden to marry.

The Quran states:

“Prohibited to you [for marriage] are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your father's sisters, your mother's sisters, your brother's daughters, your sister's daughters, your [milk] mothers who nursed you, your sisters through nursing, your wives' mothers, and your step-daughters under your guardianship [born] of your wives unto whom you have gone in..” (Quran 4:23)

There’s a case where a man found out his wife was breastfed by the same lady (referred to as his foster mother) and Muhammad ordered him to divorce her!

“I married a woman and later on a woman came and said, “I suckled you both.” So, I went to the Prophet (to ask him about it). He said, “How can you (keep her as a wife) when it has been said (that you were foster brother and sister)? Leave (divorce) her.” (Bukhari, Reference 7)

This is probably because Muhammad like many other ancients believed that milk affected the blood. Strangely, there’s no rule about drinking from the same cow, just from the same mom.

Islam also carried over the idea of “the sacred months” from pre-Islamic religion.

“They ask you about the sacred month — about fighting therein. Say, “Fighting therein is great [sin]…” (Quran 2:217)

How does this concept of sacred months make sense in the modern world is beyond me. I can imagine trying to tell your enemies “Hold on guys, its sacred month time. We need safe passage to travel to Mecca for pilgrimage. Please stop the fighting”.

Islam also carried over superstitions like evil eye and magic.

We know magic isn’t real. Evil eye isn’t real. Yet Muhammad included them in his holy book:

“And they followed [instead] what the devils had recited during the reign of Solomon. It was not Solomon who disbelieved, but the devils disbelieved, teaching people magic..” (Quran 2:102)

Muhammad used to make up rulings based on his flawed understanding of the world

Muhammad said he would have made sex forbidden during the breastfeeding period if he thought it was harmful. But he realized it wasn’t after seeing others doing it, so it’s halal:

“I heard the Messenger of Allah say: ‘I wanted to forbid intercourse with a nursing mother, but then (I saw that) the Persians and the Romans do this, and it does not kill their children.’ (Ibn Majah, Reference 2)

You can also find other hadith where Muhammad incorrectly thought that whoever orgasmed first from the man or woman determined how the child would look:

“If a man has sexual intercourse with his wife and gets discharge first, the child will resemble the father, and if the woman gets discharge first, the child will resemble her.” (Bukhari, Reference 3)

You find the strangest things in the fiqh books. This shows us that anchoring everything back to Muhammad is folly. For example:

“If someone does Jima (intercourse) with an animal or with a dead or a young girl and there is no ejaculation, then Ghusl is not obligatory” (Reference 4)

Everything is taken back to the few situations that Muhammad lived in, and the examples listed in the Quran.

Every absurd fatwa always has at its core what Muhammad said, did, or what principle could be derived from his actions and words. This is the burden of the ummah they have to carry now.

Gold is haram for men. But not platinum. Not silver. Not titanium. No other metal, just gold. Why is that? Because Muhammad said so. Silk too. But Muslim men all wear silk ties, at least the synthetic kind. What was the point of this rule? Where is the wisdom? Because Muhammad had those few metals in his life, the rules are only for those. So strange!

Muhammad’s companions changed his “divine” rulings

When Muhammad would forbid things, sometimes his companions would ask him to change it and he would change it! For example he said cut no plants or shrubs or trees in Mecca, but a companion implored him, he allowed them to cut a certain grass in Mecca:

“The Prophet (ﷺ) said, ‘Allah has made Mecca, a sanctuary, so it was a sanctuary before me and will continue to be a sanctuary after me. It was made legal for me (i.e. I was allowed to fight in it) for a few hours of a day. It is not allowed to uproot its shrubs or to cut its trees, or to chase (or disturb) its game, or to pick up its luqata (fallen things) except by a person who would announce that (what he has found) publicly.’ Al-`Abbas said, ‘O Allah’s Messenger (ﷺ)! Except Al-Idhkhir (a kind of grass) (for it is used) by our goldsmiths and for our graves.’ The Prophet (ﷺ) then said, ‘Except Al-Idhkhir.’ (Bukhari, Reference 5)

There’s even a case where a companion asked Muhammad for an exception to the rule of going for jihad and Muhammad told him Allah sent a change to the verse for him:

Narrated Al-Bara:

There was revealed: ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) and those who strive and fight in the Cause of Allah.’ (4.95) The Prophet (ﷺ) said, “Call Zaid for me and let him bring the board, the inkpot and the scapula bone (or the scapula bone and the ink pot).”‘ Then he said, “Write: ‘Not equal are those Believers who sit..”, and at that time `Amr bin Um Maktum, the blind man was sitting behind the Prophet (ﷺ) . He said, “O Allah’s Apostle! What is your order For me (as regards the above Verse) as I am a blind man?” So, instead of the above Verse, the following Verse was revealed: ‘Not equal are those believers who sit (at home) except those who are disabled (by injury or are blind or lame etc.) and those who strive and fight in the cause of Allah.’ (4.95)
(Multiple narrations, Reference 6)

The Quran is silent on many important topics and delves into far less important ones

For example it does not speak about asking for permission before having sex with your female captives of war, or even requiring a marriage contract instead of using them in this manner. Instead, it teaches us utmost important things like “It’s okay to marry your adopted son’s ex-wife”

“So when Zayd had no longer any need for her, We married her to you in order that there not be upon the believers any discomfort concerning the wives of their adopted sons when they no longer have need of them.” (Quran 33:37)

And don’t give your adopted children your family name or let them inherit from you.

“Call them by [the names of] their fathers; it is more just in the sight of Allah. But if you do not know their fathers..” (Quran 33:5)

In conclusion

Muhammad didn’t know better, but we do. Imagine living our life according to what makes sense! Building rules that make sense for society. Using science to our advantage and medicine for our health. Not living by outdated and often harmful antiquated ideas about our world. Imagine a world without harmful rules being forced onto others.

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1. Tirmidhi Vol. 5, Book 44, Hadith 3095

2. Ibn Majah Vol. 3, Book 9, Hadith 2011

3. Sahih al-Bukhari 3329

4. Durul Mukhtar Kitab Taharah, Masail Ghusl, also Alamgiri, Kitab Taharah

5. Sahih al-Bukhari 1833

6. Multiply narrated, found in Bukhari, Bukhari, Nasai, Muslim, Abu Dawud details at Abrogations in the Quran by Abdullah Sameer

7. “I married a woman and later on a woman came and said, “I suckled you both.” So, I went to the Prophet (to ask him about it). He said, “How can you (keep her as a wife) when it has been said (that you were foster brother and sister)? Leave (divorce) her.” (Sahih al-Bukhari 2660)

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