Date: 20 Mar 2010


Chapter Three Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences ew understanding of human mind sheds a lot of light on Muhammad’s mystical experiences, which he described in striking language. To avoid being called a liar, he makes Allah describe what he saw. And he is in the highest part of the horizon. Then he drew near, then he bowed. So he was the measure of two bows or closer still. And He revealed to His servant what He revealed. The heart was not untrue in what he saw. What! do you then dispute with him as to what he saw? And certainly he saw him in another descent. At the farthest lote-tree; near which is the garden, the place to be resorted to. When that which covers covered the lote-tree. The eye did not turn aside, nor did it exceed the limit. Certainly he saw of the greatest signs of his Lord. (Q.53:6-18) In another passage he emphatically affirmed his visual experience: And of a truth he saw himself on the clear horizon. (Q.81:23) A hadith reports of him recounting his experience as follows: a 102 Understanding Muhammad “While I was walking I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up towards the sky, and behold! I saw the same Angel who came to me in the Cave of Hira', sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I was so terrified by him that I fell down on the ground. Then I went to my wife and said, 'Wrap me in garments! Wrap me in garments!' They wrapped me, and then Allâh revealed: 128 When someone asked, "How does the divine inspiration come to you?" Muhammad replied, "Sometimes it is like the ringing of a bell, this form of Inspiration is the hardest of all and then this state passes ' off after I have grasped what is inspired. Sometimes the Angel comes in the form of a man and talks to me and I grasp whatever he says." 'Aisha added: Verily I saw the Prophet being inspired divinely on a very cold day and noticed the sweat dropping from his forehead (as the Inspiration was over).129 Zayd Ibn Thabit narrated: “I used to write down the words of wahy (revelation) for him. When wahy came to him he felt burning with heat and the drops of perspiration would start rolling down on his body like pearls.”130 Ibn Sa'd claims, “At the moment of inspiration, anxiety pressed upon the Prophet, and his countenance was troubled.”131 He further wrote, “When the revelation descended on the Prophet, for some hours he used to become drowsy like a sleepy person.132 Bukhari says: “The commencement of divine inspiration to Allâh’s Messenger was in the form of dreams that came true like a bright light.”133 A hadith recorded by Muslim reads: “A'isha, the wife of the Apostle of Allâh, reported: The first (form) with which was started the revelation to the Messenger of Allâh was the true vision in sleep. And he did not see any vision but it came like the bright gleam of dawn.”134 128 Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 6, Book 60, Number 448: 129 Sahih al-Bukhari Volume 1, Book 1, Number 2 130 Majma'uz Zawaa'id with reference to Tabraani 131 Tabaqat Volume 1 page 184 Persian translation 132 Ibid. 133 Bukhari Volume 1, Book 1, Number 3: 134 Sahih Muslim Book 001, Number 0301: Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 103 Tabari reports: “The Prophet said, ‘I had been standing, but fell to my knees; and crawled away, my shoulders trembling.”135 Bukhari has also recorded a long hadith that describes the entire episode of how Muhammad received his revelations. Narrated 'Aisha: The commencement of the Divine Inspiration to Allâh's Apostle was in the form of good righteous (true) dreams in his sleep. He never had a dream but that it came true like bright daylight. He used to go in seclusion (the cave of) Hira’ where he used to worship (Allâh Alone) continuously for many (days) nights. He used to take with him the journey food for that (stay) and then come back to (his wife) Khadijah to take his food likewise again for another period to stay, till suddenly the Truth descended upon him while he was in the cave of Hira. The angel came to him in it and asked him (the illiterate Muhammad) to read. The Prophet replied, "I do not know how to read. The angel caught me (forcefully) and pressed me so hard that I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and again asked me to read, and I replied, "I do not know how to read," whereupon he caught me again and pressed me a second time till I could not bear it anymore. He then released me and asked me again to read, but again I replied, "I do not know how to read (or, what shall I read?)." Thereupon he caught me for the third time and pressed me and then released me and said, "Read: In the Name of your Lord, Who has created (all that exists). Has created man from a clot. Read and Your Lord is Most Generous...up to...that which he knew not." (Q.96:15) Then Allâh's Apostle returned with the inspiration, His neck muscles twitching with terror till he entered upon Khadijah and said, "Cover me! Cover me!" They covered him till his fear was over and then he said, "O Khadijah, what is wrong with me?" Then he told her everything that had happened and said, 'I fear that something may happen to me.’ Khadijah said, 'Never! But have the glad tidings, for Allâh will never disgrace you as you keep good reactions with your Kith and kin, speak the truth, help the poor and the destitute, serve your guest generously and assist the deserving, calamity-afflicted ones." 135 Tabari VI:67 104 Understanding Muhammad Khadijah then accompanied him to (her cousin) Waraqa bin Naufal bin Asad bin 'Abdul 'Uzza bin Qusai. Waraqa was the son of her paternal uncle, i.e., her father's brother, who during the Pre-Islamic Period became a Christian and used to write the Arabic script and used to write of the Gospels in Arabic as much as Allâh wished him to write. He was an old man and had lost his eyesight. Khadijah said to him, "O my cousin! Listen to the story of your nephew." Waraqa asked, "O my nephew! What have you seen?" The Prophet described whatever he had seen. Waraqa said, "This is the same Namus (i.e., Gabriel, the Angel who keeps the secrets) whom Allâh had sent to Moses. I wish I were young and could live up to the time when your people would turn you out." Allâh's Apostle asked, "Will they turn me out?" Waraqa replied in the affirmative and said: "Never did a man come with something similar to what you have brought but was treated with hostility. If I should remain alive till the day when you will be turned out then I would support you strongly." But after a few days Waraqa died and the Divine Inspiration was also paused for a while and the Prophet became so sad as we have heard that he intended several times to throw himself from the tops of high mountains and every time he went up the top of a mountain in order to throw himself down, Gabriel would appear before him and say, "O Muhammad! You are indeed Allâh's Apostle in truth" whereupon his heart would become quiet and he would calm down and would return home. And whenever the period of the coming of the inspiration used to become long, he would do as before, but when he used to reach the top of a mountain, Gabriel would appear before him and say to him what he had said before. (Ibn 'Abbas said regarding the meaning of: 'He it is that Cleaves the daybreak (from the darkness)' (6.96) that Al-Asbah. means the light of the sun during the day and the light of the moon at night). 136 The story of Waraqa, the cousin of Khadijah, recognizing Muhammad as a messenger of God, based on his studies of the scriptures, is of course balderdash. This is the kind of stories Muhammad would make up to bolster his claim. There is nothing in the Judaic or Christian scriptures that would point to Muhammad. Waraqa was dead and Muhammad felt free to fabricate any lies and attribute them to him just as 136 Sahih Bukhari Volume 9, Book 87, Number 111 Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 105 he made those bogus claims about his grandfather saying he will have a great destiny. It is not unlikely that Khadijah, as Muhammad codependent, confirmed those lies. A co-dependent often corroborates the lies of his or her narcissist. There is a similar claim made by Muhammad pertaining to the time he went to Busra in the service of Khadijah. He claimed that as caravans entered the outskirts of Busra, he sat beneath the shade of a tree and was spotted by a Nestor monk. “Who is the man beneath that tree?” inquired the monk of Maysarah, the young lad, servant of Khadijah who was accompanying Muhammad in this trade expedition. “A man of Quraish,” Maysarah responded.” “None other than a Prophet is sitting beneath that tree,” said the monk. According to this story, concocted by Muhammad, the monk noticed his rank by observing two small clouds shading him from the oppressive heat of the sun. “Is there a glow, a slight redness, around his eyes that never parts with him?" asked the monk. When the latter answered in the affirmative, he said, “He most surely is the very last Prophet; congratulations to whoever believes in him.” In another place he claimed that the big mole that he had between his shoulders was the sign of his prophethood. I have not yet come across any scripture confirming that a mole between the shoulders and redness around the eyes are signs of prophethood. Chronic redness of the eye is a medical condition called blepharitis caused by inflammation of the eyelids. In one kind of blepharitis, i.e. meibomian gland dysfunction (MGD) patients frequently have coexisting skin disorder known as rosacea and seborrheic dermatitis. Rosacea is also characterized by redness of the face. Ali, the son of Abu Talib, described Muhammad’s face as reddish white.137 Muhammad had found a credulous audience and felt free to tell them anything, knowing that they would believe, so even the symptoms of his diseases were claimed as signs of prophethood. There is no mention of Maysarah among the early believers. Had this story been true, Maysarah should have been the first to believe. In the above hadith we can see the important role that Khadijah played in Islam. When Muhammad had his strange hallucinatory experience, he thought that he had been demon-possessed. It was Khadijah who reassured him that he has been chosen to be a prophet of God and encouraged him to purse his insanity. 137 Tirmidhi Hadith, Number 1524 106 Understanding Muhammad Some of Muhammad’s hallucinations were visual, some were somatic and others were auditory. Ibn Ishaq writes: “that the apostle, at the time when Allâh willed to bestow His grace upon him and endow him with prophethood, would go forth for his affair and travel far afield, until he reached the glens of Mecca and the beds of its valleys, where no house was in sight, and not a stone or tree that he passed by, but would say, ‘Peace unto thee, O apostle of Allâh.’ And the apostle would turn to his right and left and look behind him, and he would see nothing but trees and stones.” 138 Muhammad had several other hallucinations. Narrated Abu Huraira: “ The Prophet once offered the prayer and said, “Satan came in front of me and tried to interrupt my prayer, but Allâh gave me an upper hand on him and I choked him. No doubt, I thought of tying him to one of the pillars of the mosque till you get up in the morning and see him. Then I remembered the statement of Prophet Solomon, 'My Lord! Bestow on me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me.' Then Allâh made him (Satan) return with his head down (humiliated).”139 Narrated Aisha: Magic was worked on Allâh's Apostle so that he used to think that he had sexual relations with his wives while he actually had not (Sufyan said: That is the hardest kind of magic as it has such an effect). Then one day he said, "O 'Aisha do you know that Allâh has instructed me concerning the matter I asked Him about? Two men came to me and one of them sat near my head and the other sat near my feet. The one near my head asked the other. What is wrong with this man?' The latter replied the is under the effect of magic The first one asked, Who has worked magic on him?' The other replied Labid bin Al-A'sam, a man from Bani Zuraiq who was an ally of the Jews and was a hypocrite.' The first one asked, What material did he use)?' The other replied, 'A comb and the hair stuck to it.' The first one asked, 'Where (is that)?' The other replied. 'In a skin of pollen of a male date palm tree kept under a stone in the well of Dharwan' '' So the Prophet went to that well and took out those things and said "That was the well which was shown to me (in a dream) Its water looked like the infusion of Henna leaves 138 Sira Ibn Ishaq, p. 105 139 Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 22, Number 301 Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 107 and its date-palm trees looked like the heads of devils." The Prophet added, "Then that thing was taken out' I said (to the Prophet) "Why do you not treat yourself with Nashra?" He said, "Allâh has cured me; I dislike to let evil spread among my people." 140 In another hadith we are told: “Revelation came to the Apostle of Allâh and he was covered with a cloth, and Ya'la said: Would that I see revelation coming to the Apostle of Allâh. He (Omar) said: Would it please you to see the Apostle of Allâh receiving the revelations 'Omar lifted a corner of the cloth and I looked at him and he was emitting a sound of snorting. He (the narrator) said: I thought it was the sound of a camel.”141 One hadith reportys: “When Gabriel revealed the Divine Inspiration in Allâh's Apostle, he (Allâh's Apostle) moved his tongue and lips, and that state used to be very hard for him, and that movement indicated that revelation was taking place.” 142 Here is a “laundry list” of psychological and physical effects of revelation on Muhammad’s body and mind based on what is reported in various ahadith. 1. visions (hallucinations) of seeing an angel or a light and of hearing voices 2. bodily spasms and excruciating abdominal pain and discomfort 3. overwhelmed by sudden emotions of anxiety and fear 4. twitching in neck muscles 5. uncontrollable lip movement, lip smacking 6. sweating even during cold days. 7. face flushed. 8. Countenance was troubled. 9. rapid heart palpitation 10. snorting like a camel 11. drowsiness 12. suicidal thoughts All of these are symptoms of temporal lobe epilepsy [TLE]. Another characteristic of TLE is that it happens unexpectedly with no prior warning to the patient. This too was the case in Muhammad’s mystical experiences. Bukhari reports: “While Allâh's Apostle was talking about the period of pause in 140 Sahih Bukhari Volume 7, Book 71, Number 660: 141 Sahih Muslim Book 007, Number 2654: 142 Sahih Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 451: 108 Understanding Muhammad revelation, he said in his narration, "Once while I was walking, all of a sudden I heard a voice from the sky. I looked up and saw to my surprise, the same Angel as had visited me in the cave of Hira’. He was sitting on a chair between the sky and the earth. I got afraid of him and came back home and said, Wrap me! Wrap me!"143 Suicidal Thoughts The chroniclers tell us that Muhammad attempted to commit suicide on several occasions, only to be stopped by Gabriel every time. He at first thought that he had become a poet or a soothsayer: “I have never abhorred anyone more than a poet or a kahin. I cannot stand looking at either of them. I will never tell anyone of Quraish of my Revelation. I will climb a mountain and throw myself down and die. That will relieve me. I went to do that but halfway up the mountain; I heard a voice from the sky saying ‘O Muhammad! You are the Messenger of Allâh and I am Gabriel.’ I looked upwards and saw Gabriel in the form of a man putting his legs on the horizon. He said: ‘O Muhammad You are the Messenger of Allâh and I am Gabriel.’ I stopped and looked at him. His sight distracted my attention from what I had intended to do. I stood in my place transfixed. I tried to shift my eyes away from him, but towards whatever region of the sky I looked, I saw him as before.”144 The only way one can make sense of this vision is that the image that Muhammad was seeing was in his own head, moving in whichever direction he turned. The picture on the cover of the book shows Gabriel appearing in a multitude or places simultaneously. However, this is not how Muhammad described his vision. What Muhammad saw can only be defined as visual hallucination. Visual hallucinations occur in various non-psychiatric conditions including cerebral lesions, sensory deprivation, the administration of psychedelics and migraine. Some hallucinations are elementary, i.e. the patient sees light, colors or simple geometrical forms. These kinds of hallucinations often occur in occipital lobe epilepsy. Complex visual hallucination and delusions, such as those experienced by Muhammad occur in temporal lobe seizures and other neurological disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Creutzfeldt–Jakob disease. These hallucinations are usually vivid images of 143 Bukhari Volume 6, Book 60, Number 478 144 Sira Ibn Ishaq p. 106 Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 109 animals, humans or mythical creatures such as angels, jinns145 and extraterrestrials. They can be accompanied with auditory, gustatory, olfactory and even somatosensory hallucinations. The somatosensory and kinesthetic hallucinations are mostly associated with temporal lobe seizures. This explains Muhammad’s experience in the cave Hira’ where he felt that Angel Gabriel had grabbed him and squeezed him so hard until he felt an excruciating pain in his abdomen that he thought he would die. The research scientist Scott Atran, explains “Sudden alterations of activity in the hippocampus and amygdala can affect auditory, vestibular, gustatory, tactile, olfactory perceptions and lead to hallucinations involving voices or music, feelings of sway or physical suspension, the tastes of elixirs, burning or caressing, the fragrance of Heaven or the stench of Hell. For example, because the middle part of the amygdala receives fibers from the olfactory tract, direct stimulation of that part of the amygdala will flood co-occurring events with strong smells. In religious rituals, incense and fragrances stimulate the amygdala so that scent can be used to focus attention and interpretation on the surrounding events. In temporal-lobe epilepsy, the sudden electrical spiking of the area infuses other aspects of the epileptic experience with an odorous aura.”146 Muhammad described Gabriel as having 600 wings.147 This is even hard to imagine. Buraq, the steed upon which he took his alleged night-flight to Jerusalem and then to heavens, had a human head and the wings of an eagle. Unless one decides to believe in absurdities, it is clear that Muhammad was hallucinating. The Egyptian Muslim scholar and historian, Haykal describes the angel as seen by Muhammad while on his visit to heavens. “The first heaven was of pure silver and the stars suspended from its vault by chains of gold; [This shows that Muhammad had no understanding of what stars are. He envisioned them something like Christmas lights hanging from the vault of the sky. This is consistent with Ptolemy’s cosmology commonly believed at his time.] in each one an angel lay awake to prevent the demons from climbing into the holy dwelling places and the spirits from listening indiscreetly to celestial secrets. [This absurdity is stated also in the Qur’an, where it says the jinns used to stand on each other’s shoulders to listen to the conversation of the “Exalted Assembly, 145 Often mischievous form of spirits in Arab mythology, capable of appearing in human and animal forms. 146 Scott Atran, NeuroTheology: Brain, Science, Spirituality, Religious Experience by Chapter 10 http://jeannicod.ccsd.cnrs.fr/docs/00/05/32/82/RTF/ijn_00000110_00.rtf 147 Bukhari:Volumne 4, Book 54, Number 455 110 Understanding Muhammad until they were shot down by stars that were fired at them like missiles. In the old days people used to think meteorites are shooting stars.148] There, Muhammad greeted Adam. And in the six other heavens the Prophet met Noah, Aaron, Moses, Abraham, David, Solomon, Idris (Enoch), Yahya (John the Baptist) and Jesus. He saw the Angel of Death, Azrail, so huge that his eyes were separated by 70,000 marching days. [Roughly ten times bigger than the distance between the Moon and the Earth] He commanded 100,000 battalions and passed his time in writing in an immense book the names of those dying or being born. He saw the Angel of Tears who wept for the sins of the world; the Angel of Vengeance with brazen face, covered with warts, who presides over the elements of fire and sits on a throne of flames; and another immense angel made up half of snow and half of fire surrounded by a heavenly choir continually crying: `0 God, Thou hast united snow and fire, united all Thy servants in obedience to Thy Laws. In the seventh heaven where the souls of the just resided was an angel larger than the entire world, with 70,000 heads; each head had 70,000 mouths, each mouth had 70,000 tongues and each tongue spoke in 70,000 different idioms singing endlessly the praises of the Most High.’149 Muhammad possessed an extraordinary imaginative power. However his thinking was warped. Such a creature cannot even be envisioned, let alone come to the realm of existence. • Muhammad sees an angel larger than the world, which in itself is an oxymoron. • This angel has 70,000 heads; each head has 70,000 faces. (He has 4,900,000,000 faces) • Each face has 70,000 mouths (He has 343,000,000,000,000 mouths) • Each mouth has 70,000 tongues (He has 24,010,000,000,000,000,000 tongues) • Each tongue speaks 70,000 idioms (He speaks 1,680,700,000,000,000,000,000,000 different idioms. i.e. more than 1.68 septlion idioms. Why would Allâh need to create such a monstrosity, just to praise him endlessly in that many idioms? Such a creature can only be envisioned by 148 Qur’an, 72:8; 37:6-10; 63:5. 149 Muhammad Husayn Haykal (1888, 1956): The Life of Muhammad, translated by Isma'il Razi A. al-Faruqi. ISBN: 0892591374 Chapter 8: From the Violation of the Boycott to al Isra'. Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 111 someone suffering from severe hallucination. Imagine someone filling his house with lots of computers and tape recorder and programming them to praise him all the time in all the languages. Wouldn’t that be insane? Allâh is the personification of Muhammad’s alter ego and everything he wanted to be. Allâh’s psychology reflects that of Muhammad. As a narcissist, he had an insatiable craving for praise and so does his god who was a projection of his own self. Muhammad was a loner. Except for the fact that he had married an important lady, he was not an important person in his own right and was derided by his people. His hallucinatory experiences, interpreted by his wife as the sign of prophethood, were his greatest narcissistic supplies. When those experiences stopped, he felt depressed. Vaknin says: “Depression is a big component in the narcissist's emotional make-up. But it mostly has to do with the absence of narcissistic supply. It mostly has to do with nostalgia to more plentiful days, full of adoration and attention and applause… Depression is a form of aggression. Transformed, this aggression is directed at the depressed person rather than at his human environment. This regime of repressed and mutated aggression is a characteristic of both narcissism and depression… However, the narcissist, even when depressed, never forgoes his narcissism: his grandiosity, sense of entitlement, haughtiness, and lack of empathy.”150 This explains not only the cause of Muhammad’s depression and his consequent thoughts of suicide but also why he never did carry out his suicidal thoughts to culmination. Narcissists hardly commit suicide. It seems strange that Muhammad, on several occasions, would attempt suicide and each time Gabriel would come to his rescue, but he would reattempt again. Narcissists do not usually carry out their suicidal plans, but they talk about it to garner sympathy. “How could a narcissist who thinks of himself as a Colossus, as an immensely important person, as the center of the universe commit suicide?” writes Agatha Christie in Dead Man's Mirror: “He is far more likely to destroy someone else - some miserable crawling ant of a human being who had dared to cause him annoyance.... Such an act may be regarded as necessary - as sanctified! But self-destruction? The destruction of such a Self?”151 Unlike bipolar patients who need medication to get out of their depression, all a narcissist needs is “one dose of narcissistic 150 /www.mental-health-matters.com/articles/article.php?artID=92 151 Dead Man's Mirror" by Agatha Christie - in "Hercule Poirot The Complete Short Stories" - Great Britain, HarperCollins Publishers, 1999 112 Understanding Muhammad supply to elevate from the depth of misery to the heights of manic euphoria”, says Vaknin 152 Temporal Lobe Epilepsy Temporal lobe epilepsy (TLE) was defined in 1985 by the International League Against Epilepsy (ILAE) as a condition characterized by recurrent unprovoked seizures originating from the medial or lateral temporal lobe. The seizures associated with TLE consist of simple partial seizures without loss of awareness (with or without aura) and complex partial seizures (i.e., with loss of awareness). The individual loses awareness during a complex partial seizure because the seizure spreads to involve both temporal lobes, which causes impairment of memory.153 Muhammad’s seizures were of both kinds. Sometimes he fell and lost consciousness and at other times, he did not. One hadith reports that during the construction of the Ka’ba, before he received his prophetic intimation, Muhammad fell unconscious on the ground with both his eyes towards the sky. At the time he lost his senses.154 This is very much an epileptic seizure. The site emedicine.com says, “90% of patients with temporal interictal epileptiform abnormalities on their EEG have a history of seizures.” We know that Muhammad had seizures since his childhood. He saw two men in white opening his chest and washing his heart with white snow. American neurosurgeon and a pioneer of brain surgery, Harvey Cushing, reports of a boy with a cystic glioma in the right temporal lobe resulted in a vivid three dimensional vision of a man dressed in white.155 The Irish-American neurologist, Robert Foster Kennedy (1884-1952) was one of the first to identify vividly real hallucinations of an audio-visual nature, localized outside of the body as being temporal lobe in origin.156 Talking about his youth, Muhammad said: I found myself among the boys of Quraish, carrying stones such as boys play with. We had all uncovered ourselves, each taking his shirt [a cloth wrap] and putting it round his neck as he carried the stones. I was going to 152 http://samvak.tripod.com/journal71.html 153 www.emedicine.com/NEURO/topic365.htm 154 Sahih Bukhari, Volume, Book 26, Number 652 155 Cushing: Brain 1921-1922 xliv p341 156 Kennedy: Arch Int Med 1911 viii p317. Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 113 and fro in the same way, when an unseen figure slapped me painfully saying, ‘Put your shirt on’ so I took it and fastened it on me, then began to carry the stones upon my neck, wearing my shirt, alone among my fellows.”157 It seems that Muhammad’s hallucinatory companions were just as violent and abusive as he was. The Symptoms of Temporal Lobe Seizure A seizure originating in the temporal lobe may be preceded by an aura or warning symptom, such as abnormal sensations, epigastric sensations (a funny feeling in the stomach), hallucinations or illusions (vision, smells, tastes, or other sensory illusions), sensation of deja vu, recalled emotions or memories, sudden and intense emotion not related to anything occurring at the time. All these symptoms were present during Muhammad’s seizures. The epileptic experience can be partial, during which consciousness is maintained or it can be partial complex, resulting in the loss or reduction of consciousness during the seizure or spell. Other symptoms include abnormal head movements and forced turning of the eyes. This kind of seizure happened to Muhammad during the construction of Ka’ba. Repetitive movements and rhythmic muscle contraction affecting one side of the body, one arm, leg, part of face, or other isolated area are also symptoms of TLE. Other symptoms include, abdominal pain or discomfort, nausea, sweating, flushed face, rapid heart rate/pulse and changes in vision, speech, thought, awareness and personality. Of course, sensory hallucinations (visual, hearing, touch, etc.) are major symptoms.158 Epilepsy.dk defines, “Simple partial seizures with mental symptoms, which can be remembered, afterwards, have from ancient times been known as ‘aura’. They are often followed by a convulsion. They are often dream-like… He thinks that he is going mad.”159 Muhammad actually did think that he was going mad. It was Khadijah who persuaded him otherwise. 157 Sirat Rasoul p. 77 158 www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/001399.htm 159 www.epilepsy.dk/Handbook/Mental-complications-uk.asp 114 Understanding Muhammad The same site writes: “It has long been debated as to whether persons with epilepsy have particular personality traits, which are different from other peoples. It has particularly been singled out that people with temporal lobe epilepsy are more emotionally unstable than others, perhaps with a tendency towards aggression. Some people were said to be self-centered, they could be sensitive to the point of paranoia, and took every chance remark as a personal slight. They were described as being given to brooding over things, and were particularly interested in religious, mystic, philosophical and moral issues.”160 This site explains that people suffering from TLE are more prone to become depressed, have suicidal thoughts and hallucinate. The person gets the feeling that he is being persecuted. His emotional contact with other people, however, is always much better than in cases of true schizophrenia. Unlike schizophrenia, TLE often resolves on its own. This must have happened to Muhammad as in later years of his life there were fewer fits of seizure. However, this did not stop him from “revealing” verses for the Qur’an as situation dictated. There is a difference in tone, language and the structure of sentences between the early Meccan verses and the later Medinan ones. The suras written during the early phase of Muhammad’s prophetic career are poetic in style. They often rhyme, are short and striking. They are filled with exhortations to be pious and charitable, to feed the orphans and to free the slaves, to be patient, kind and compassionate and plenty of warnings and promises of hell for those who would not heed to his call. Sura 90, “The Sun”, is a typical sura pertaining to this period. It talks about a fable already known to Arabs, that Allâh had sent a she-camel to warn people of Samood, who in their waywardness slaughtered this animal prophetess. I swear by the sun and its brilliance, And the moon when it follows the sun, And the day when it shows it, And the night when it draws a veil over it, And the heaven and Him Who made it, And the earth and Him Who extended it, And the soul and Him Who made it perfect, Then He inspired it to understand what is right and wrong for it; 160 Ibid. Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 115 He will indeed be successful who purifies it, And he will indeed fail who corrupts it. Samood gave the lie (to the truth) in their inordinacy, When the most unfortunate of them broke forth with, So Allâh's messenger said to them (Leave alone) Allâh's she-camel, and (give) her (to) drink. But they called him a liar and slaughtered her; therefore their Lord crushed them for their sin and leveled them (with the ground). And He fears not its consequence. Sura 113, “The Dawn”, is another example of the suras written in this period. The Dawn" In the name of Allâh, the Beneficent, the Merciful. Say: I seek refuge in the Lord of the dawn, From the evil of what He has created, And from the evil of the utterly dark night when it comes, And from the evil of those who blow on knots, And from the evil of the envious when he envies. While still in Mecca, Muhammad’s ambition was limited to that town alone and its surroundings. He wrote: Thus have We sent by inspiration to you an Arabic Qur’an: that you may warn the Mother of Cities and all around her.161 The Mother of Cities, Umul Qura, is Mecca. In other verses 162 he said that he came specifically for those who had not received a revelation from God before. According to these verses, the Jews and the Christians were not his addressees. However, as time passed his ambition grew, and eventually he demanded everyone to submit to him or die. The language in later suras is legalistic. It is the language of a despot setting laws and ordinances for his subjects and inciting them to conquer new 161 Qur’an, 42:7. The same claim is made in Qur’an, 6:92 162 “Nay, it is the Truth from thy Lord, that thou mayest admonish a people to whom no warner has come before thee: in order that they may receive guidance.”(Qur’an 32:3) and In order that thou mayest admonish a people, whose fathers had received no admonition, and who therefore remain heedless (of the Signs of Allâh). (Qura’an, 36:6) 116 Understanding Muhammad lands. A. S. Tritton says, “The sentences are long and unwieldly so that the hearer has to listen carefully or he will miss the rhyme altogether; the language has become prose with rhyming words at intervals. The subject matter is laws, comments on public events, statements of policy, rebukes to those who did not see eye to eye with the prophet, Jews especially, and references to his domestic troubles. Here imagination is weak and stock phrases are dragged in to conceal the poverty of ideas though occasionally the earlier enthusiasm bursts out.”163 It is also important to note that Muhammad's hallucinations were not limited to seeing the Angel Gabriel. He also claimed seeing Jinns and even Satan. In one occasion, while praying in the mosque, he started moving his arms as if struggling with an imaginary person. He later said, “Satan came in front of me and tried to interrupt my prayer, but Allâh gave me an upper hand on him and I choked him. No doubt, I thought of tying him to one of the pillars of the mosque till you get up in the morning and see him. Then I remembered the statement of Prophet Solomon, 'My Lord! Bestow on me a kingdom such as shall not belong to any other after me.' Then Allâh made him (Satan) return with his head down (humiliated).”164 In several ahadith Muhammad narrated his encounters with Jinns. In one story he claimed to have spent a night in their town converting many of them to Islam. In the Qur’an there are at least 30 references to Jinns. Other Symptoms of TLE People with TLE tend to demonstrate some of these five interictal traits (between rather than during seizures). 1. Hypergraphia: Hypergraphia is an obsessional phenomenon manifested by writing extensive notes and diaries. Even though apparently illiterate, Muhammad composed the Qur’an, asking others to write it down for him. 2. Hyperreligiosity: Religious beliefs not only are intense, but may also be associated with elaborate theological or cosmological theories. Patients may believe that they have special divine guidance. Muhammad obviously had an unusual degree of concern with philosophy and mysticism, which led him to invent a new religion. 163 A.S. Tritton, Islam: Belief and Practice 1951, p. 16. 164 Sahih Bukhari Volume 2, Book 22, Number 301. Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 117 3. Stickiness: From the stories that talk about Muhammad’s attachment to his uncle, when he was a boy and other stories we can determine that Muhammad was emotionally needy and very much offended when rejected or abandoned. 4. Altered interest in sex: Muhammad’s obsession with women indicates that his interest in sex was heightened even though, as we shall see later, his abilities may have been diminished or entirely disappeared. 5. Aggressiveness: The intense emotions are often labile, so that the patient may exhibit great warmth at one time, whereas, at another time, anger and irritability may evolve to rage and aggressive behavior. Muhammad was at times friendly, particularly to his companions, but extremely short-tempered and irritable to those whom he perceived as resisting his demands. Bukhari says: “If the Prophet disliked something, the sign of aversion would appear on his face.”165 The Heavenly Night Journey There are various versions of the story of Muhammad’s Mi’raj, his alleged night journey to heaven. Ibn Ishaq has weaved together these traditions stemming from his companions, particularly his wife Aisha. According to the narrative, Muhammad has reported: While I was asleep in the hijr, Gabriel came and stirred me with his foot. I sat up, but saw nothing and lay down again. He came a second time and stirred me with his foot. I sat up, but saw nothing and lay down again. He came to me a third time, and stirred me with his foot. I sat up, and he took hold of my arm and I stood beside him. He brought me out to the door of the mosque, and there was a white animal, half mule, half donkey, with wings on its sides with which it propelled its feet, putting down each forefoot at the limit of its sight. He mounted me on it. Then he went out with me, keeping close to me. When I came up to mount him, he shied. Gabriel placed his hand on its mane and said, Are you not ashamed, O Buraq, to behave in this way? By Allâh, none more honorable before Allâh than Muhammad has ever ridden you before. The animal was so ashamed that he broke out into a sweat, and stood so that I could mount him. 165 Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 56, Number 763. 118 Understanding Muhammad The narrator then says: “The apostle and Gabriel went their way, until they arrived at the temple at Jerusalem. There he found Abraham, Moses, and Jesus among a company of the prophets. The apostle acted as their imam in prayer. Then he was brought two vessels, one containing wine and the other milk. The apostle took the milk and drank it, leaving the wine. Gabriel said, ‘You have been rightly guided to the way of nature, the true primeval religion, and so will your people be, Muhammad. Wine is forbidden to you.’ Then the apostle returned to Mecca, and in the morning he told Quraish what had happened. Most of them said, ‘By Allâh, this is a plain absurdity! A caravan takes a month to go to Syria and a month to return. How can Muhammad do the return journey in one night?’” Ibn Sa’d says; “Upon hearing this story many who had prayed and joined Islam became renegades and left Islam.” And this Qur’anic verse was allegedly revealed in response: “We made the vision which we showed you only for a test to men.”166 Muslim chroniclers have gone out of their way to embellish this story and give it credibility. They have added that people asked for proof and Muhammad replied that he had passed the caravan of so-and-so in such-and-such a valley, and the animal he rode scared them and a camel bolted. Then Muhammad is quoted saying, “And I showed them where it was, as I was on the way to Syria. I carried on until, in Dajanan, a mountain near Tihama, some 25 miles from Mecca. I passed by a caravan of the Banu so-and-so. I found the people asleep. They had a jar of water covered with something. I took the covering off and drank the water, replacing the cover. The proof of that is that their caravan is this moment coming down from al-Baida’ by the pass of al-Tan’im, led by a dusky camel loaded with two sacks, one black and the other multihued.’ Baida is a hill near Mecca, on the Medina side. Tan’im is on the high ground near Mecca. The people hurried to the pass, and the first camel they met was as he had described. They asked the men about the vessel, and they told them that they had left it full of water and covered it, and that when they woke, it was covered but empty. They asked the others too, who were in Mecca and they said that it was quite right, they had been scared, and a camel had bolted. They had heard a man calling them to it, so that they were able recover it.” These traditions were written down more than a hundred years after the death of Muhammad. There was no way to prove the authenticity of such claims after the lapse of this much time. However, what Muslims in general have 166 Qur’an: Sura 13, Verse 62 Muhammad’s Ecstatic Experiences 119 missed is that at the time that Muhammad allegedly visited the Temple in Jerusalem, there was no temple in Jerusalem. Six centuries before al-Buraq took flight, the Romans had destroyed it. By 70 A.D. not one stone stood upon another. The Temple of Solomon was built around 10th century BC, according to the Bible. The Dome of the Rock was raised on the foundations of the Roman Temple of Jupiter in 691 A.D. Al-Aqsa mosque was constructed over a Roman basilica on the southern end of the Temple Mount by the Umayyads in 710 AD. It is ironic that Muhammad sees the caravan of the tribe of so and so in his way but fails to see that the temple, in which he was praying, actually did not exist. Another hadith says that to test the truth of what Muhammad was claiming Abu Bakr asked him to describe Jerusalem and when he did that, Abu Bakr said ‘That’s true. I testify that you are the apostle of Allâh’. It is not clear whether Abu Bakr had ever been in Jerusalem. This wasn’t an important town for Arabs to visit. However, it is surprising that also Abu Bakr did not say anything about the temple. These are all apocryphal stories that Muslims fabricated to give credibility to this most bizarre tale narrated by their prophet. There is another version of this story that is probably the correct one because it is also ratified in the Qur’an. In this version Muhammad says: After the completion of my business in Jerusalem, a ladder was brought to me, finer than any I have ever seen. It was that to which the dying man looks when death approaches. My companion mounted it with me, until we came to one of the gates of heaven, called the Gate of the Watchers. An angel called Isma’il was in charge of it, and under his command were twelve thousand angels, each of them having twelve thousand angels under his command.’ When Gabriel brought me in, Isma’il asked who I was, and when he was told that I was Muhammad, he asked if I had been given a mission, or sent for, and on being assured of this, he wished me well. All the angels who met me when I entered the lowest heaven smiled welcomingly and wished me well, except one who said the same things, but did not smile or show that joyful expression which the others had. And when I asked Gabriel the reason, he told me that if he had ever smiled on anyone before, or would smile on anyone hereafter, he would have smiled on me. He does not smile, because he is Malik, the Keeper of Hell. I said to Gabriel, he holding the position with regard to Allâh, which he has 000000000