Angry Prophet?

Often, missionaries will attack the integrity of Prophet Muhammad (the peace and blessing of Allāh be upon him) by claiming he was “Short tempered and easily angered”. They attempt to paint the Prophet as irrationally unstable in his behavior. Is this claim true? Was the Prophet a raving mad man as the missionaries would have us believe? Let us look at each of the evidences they present us to see if there claim stands in the face of sincere examination. The first hadīth they purposely misconstrue is from Sahih Bukhari Vol. 1, No. 90, which says:

 “I never saw the Prophet more furious in giving advice than he was on that day”

  If we read the Hadīth with its context we will find that an elderly man came to the Prophet asking him if he could leave out the compulsory prayer with the congregation. The elderly man complained about the Imām’s prolonging of the prayer which became difficult upon the old man. For this reason the Prophet became angry and it is here that the narrator said

 “I never saw the Prophet more furious in giving advice than he was on that day”.

 The Prophet addressed the people saying

 “O people! Some of you make others dislike good deeds (the prayers). So whoever leads the people in prayer should shorten it because among them there are the sick, the weak, and the needy (having some jobs to do).”

  Was this advice so irrational? Did the Prophet act like a raving lunatic? Even though the Prophet was angry he still maintained the rationality to exercise fairness. Had the Prophet have been “short tempered and furious” as the missionaries claim, Prophet Muhammad would have scorned the elderly man for such a thought. Had the Prophet been so “ruthless”, and “irrational” he would have failed to sympathize with the elderly mans difficulty in any way. The anger that the Prophet displayed was in fact an act of mercy towards the elderly, sick and the weak. This demonstrates the Prophet was full of mercy and he hated for his followers to be overburdened. We see this from the following hadīth:

 “Religion is very easy and whoever overburdens himself will not be able to carry on that way. So you should not be extremists, but try to be near to perfection…” – Sahih al-Bukhari, Vol. 1, No. 38

 Another hadīth they misrepresent is from Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Vol. 1, No. 9, which says:

 “The Prophet got angry and his cheeks or face became red”

The context of this hadīth informs us that a man asked the Prophet “what should we do if we find a lost item?” The Prophet advised him to memorize what the lost item looked like and make a public announcement for a year. If the owner does not claim the lost item then it is his to keep. Then the man asked about the lost camel, it is here that the Prophet became angry. The Prophet responded to him by saying, “You have no concern with it as it has its water container, and its feet will reach water, and will eat the leaves of trees until its owner finds it”. What do we notice about this response from the Prophet? Did he become angry at being asked questions or the nature of the question? Did the Prophet give a rational answer? This hadīth speaks for itself.

 Furthermore, take special notice that the man felt comfortable enough to ask the Prophet another question. He asked the Prophet about a lost sheep and the Prophet replied “It is either for you, for your brother (if he claims it), or for the wolf”. Had the Prophet been irrational like the missionaries would like us to believe then he wouldn’t have given such a rational answer. The fact that the man went on to ask the third question about the lost sheep actually demonstrates the calmness of the Prophet, not the “rage” of the Prophet!

 Another hadīth they cunningly misapprehend is from Sahih al-Bukhārī, Vol. 1, No. 92, where it is mentioned:

 “The Prophet was asked about things which he did not like, when the questioners insisted, the Prophet got Angry”

 In order to understand this hadīth, it has to be cross referenced with all of the Qur’ānic commentary relating to Sūrat al-Mā’idah, verses 101-102, and the corresponding Ahādīth.[1] We are informed that people were asking the Prophet questions mockingly,

 “where is my camel” and “Who is my father?”, etc.

 As Allāh granted the Prophet with such knowledge of the unseen he did not want to answer their questions, for if they came into knowledge it would have harmed them. However, they insisted. So the Prophet said “Ask me anything you want”. The man whose name was `Abdullāh as-Sahmi repeated his question, “Who is my father?” The Prophet replied to him “Your father is Hudhāfah.”

 `Abdullāh as-Sahmi found the reply to be strange as he had been bought to believe another man was his father, but, when he returned home he found that his mother had been informed of this event. She was furious and rebuked him saying,

 “I have never known as son more disobedient than you! Do you believe that your mother would commit the sin of the women of the days of ignorance only to then have you reveal it in front of the very eyes of the people?!”

 `Abdullāh thereafter narrates about this happening,

 “If I was able to take up the lowly position of a slave, I would have done so that day out of shame.” From this incident ‘Abdullāh had learnt that the Prophet was indeed the Messenger of Allāh, and upon this the verse from Surāt ul-Mā’idah was revealed, “O you who believe, do not ask about things which if made plain to you, may cause you trouble”.

  Again we find the Prophet being merciful by not wanting to expose the shameful deeds of people, but due to constant nagging he was forced to tell somebody news that they were better of not knowing.

 Another hadīth missionary’s maltreat is from Sahīh Bukhārī, Vol. 4, No.  617:

 “He became so angry that I saw the signs of anger on his face.”

 We are told that the Prophet was distributing wealth between the people. A man challenged the Prophet, putting forth the accusation that “this distribution has not been done seeking Allāh’s countenance.” Upon hearing this from the man the Prophet became angry. How did the Prophet react? Did he verbally abuse the man with a string of ad hominem? Did he beat the man around the face or even order for him to be whipped?  Did he order for him to be killed? No.

 If we turn to hadīth number 558 in the same volume, we find a similar account of somebody accusing the Prophet of distributing unjustly. Khālid bin Walīd upon hearing what the man had said offered to chop the man’s head off, but we find that the Prophet prevented him from doing so. This would have been the perfect opportunity for a “raving madman” to take his revenge and have the man’s head rolling on the floor. However the Prophet was not a raving madman. He did not hit, spit, kick or abuse people when he was in a state of anger. In fact he was calm and if we look back to hadīth number 617, the hadīth concludes that only reaction from the Prophet was that he said,

 “May Allāh bestow His Mercy on Moses, for he was harmed more than this; yet he endured patiently.”

 By using the four quoted ahādīth, missionaries attempt to throw doubts on the integrity of the Prophets character. There line of reasoning is based on false premises. They falsely imagine that if they can depict Prophet Muhammad as short tempered and furious, then they have proved successfully that he is not a Prophet. However, it is prominently clear that out of so many thousands of ahādīth, they only mange to come up with four, and these very same hadīth actually defend the integrity of the Prophet as we have already demonstrated. Thus, their attempts to blacken the Prophets character have failed dismally.

 Notice how they do not quote the hadīth from Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Vol. 4, No. 626 in which the Prophet became angry at a Muslim for slapping a Jew in the face.  Nor do they quote the hadīth in Sahīh Muslim Hadīth No. 778, which informs us that the Prophet became furious when he caught Abu Mas’ūd al-Ansārī beating his slave. Likewise, they do not wish to tell you that Moses also became angry in Leviticus 10:16, Or when Jonah becomes angry in Jonah 4:1, or when Jesus becomes angry in Mark 3:5, and that he threw over the money changers tables in Mark 11:15. Nor do they want to admit that their “God of love” is depicted throughout the Bible as an angry God who was angry at Aaron, Solomon etc. We are told in Psalms 7:11 “God is angry with the wicked every day.”

 How are they going to argue with these solid overwhelming facts? Are they going to totally deny them by claiming that whenever the Prophets, Patriarchs and Apostles became angry, it was not in obedience to the Bible? Are they going to claim that whenever the Prophets, Patriarchs and Apostles became angry is was is disobedience to the Bible?

 The answer to this argument if it ever does raise its ugly head is that Jesus gave the standards for anger in Matthew 5:22 where he says “But I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment”. Notice how “without a cause” is with emphasis. Thus, Jesus did not consider all types of anger as impermissible. There was both a permissible anger and an impermissible anger. This shows to me that these missionaries that make these claims are not only ignorant of many Islāmic traditions where Prophet has advised us about anger, but they are ignorant of their own Bible, and the teachings therein.

As said, the missionaries inconsiderately overlook the advice of Prophet Muhammad regarding anger. I would like to quote just some of those advices

 Allāh revealed in the Qur’ān to the Prophet “those who spend in prosperity and in adversity, who control their anger, and who pardon men; indeed Allāh loves the Muhsinūn” – Qur’ān  3:134. “Thise who avoid major sins and immoralities, and when they are angry they forgive” – Qur’ān  42:47. The Prophet said, “The strong is not the one who overcomes people with his strength, but he who controls himself whilst he is in a state of anger” – Sahīh al-Bukhārī, Vol. 8, No. 135.A man said to the Prophet, “Advice me”. The Prophet told him “Do not get angry” – Fath ul-Bārī 10:456. Imam Ghazali relates in his Ihyā Ulūm ud-Dīn that Ali said “The prophet did not get angry for any worldly matter. When any true matter angered him, he never harmed anybody and nobody got up to take revenge for his anger. He became angry only for the sake of truth.”

One cannot help but to notice that the Prophet gave us the best of advice. To control our anger, forgive when we are angry, and if we get angry, let it be for a just cause. I challenge the missionaries who make such erroneous claims that Prophet Muhammad was an irrational mad man, short tempered and furious, to find one single account in the vast volumes of hadīth where the Prophet lost his temper and shouted, hit, or verbally abused somebody.
[1] Sahih ul-Bukhārī, Arab/Eng. Version, Vol. 6, pp. 113-115, Ch. 101, No. 145-146; Sahih Muslim, Vol. 4, No. 1834; Tafsīr at-Tabarī, V. 11, pp. 100-103; Imām Ibn `Atiyyah al-Māliki’s al-Muharrir ul-Wajiz, pp. 584-586; Imām Ibn al-Jawzi’s Zād ul-Masir fi`Ilm it-Tafsīr, pp. 410-411; Imām al-Hussain al-Baghāwi’s Lubāb ut-Ta’wil fi Ma`ālam it-Tanzil, pp. 401-402; Imām al-`Izz ibn `Abdus-Salām; Imām al-Māwardī’s Tafsīr ul-Qur’ān, pp. 141-142; Imām as-Suyutī’s ad-Darr ul-Manthur, Vol. 2, pp. 330-334.

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