From Merchant to Messenger

The Prophet Muhammad's struggle for legitimacy as revealed in the Koran

He Who Must Be Obeyed

From Merchant to MessengerNarrated Abu Huraira:

Allah's Apostle said, "All my followers will enter Paradise except those who refuse."

They said, "O Allah's Apostle! Who will refuse?"

He said, "Whoever obeys me will enter Paradise, and whoever disobeys me is the one who refuses (to enter it)."

Bukhari 92.384


4:59 O believers, obey Allah and obey the Messenger and those in authority among you. Should you quarrel over any matter, then refer it to Allah and the Messenger, if you really believe in Allah and the Last Day. That is far better for you and fairer in interpretation.


5:92 Obey Allah and obey the Messenger and beware; but if you turn back, then know that it is the duty of Our Messenger to deliver the clear Message.


8:20 O you who believe, obey Allah and His Messenger, and do not turn away from Him while you hear.

8:21 And do not be like those who say: “We hear”, while they hear not.


33:36 It is not up to any believer, man or woman, when Allah and His Messenger have passed a judgement, to have any choice in their affairs. Whoever disobeys Allah and His Messenger have gone astray in a manifest manner.

Rule by one man, the caliph, i.e., leader of the believers, is a central concept of government as envisioned by the Koran. The absolute authority over believers granted Muhammad by Allah is inherited by those who claim the mantle of caliph; the most recent example is that of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the deceased leader of The Islamic State. The Koran is clear: the leader of the believers rules on God’s behalf and when he gives an order, it is as if Allah Himself has given that order.

4:80 Whoever obeys the Messenger actually obeys Allah. As for those who turn away, We have not sent you to be their helpers.

Obedience means not plotting to do the opposite of what you agreed to.

4:81 They say: “Obedience”; but when they leave you, a group of them secretly plan something other than what you say. Allah writes down what they have in mind. So shun them and put your trust in Allah; Allah is the All-Sufficient Guardian.

4:82 (quoted earlier in Chapter: A Book Revealed)

Anyone who unnecessarily raises the alarm during hostilities without first talking to those in charge may be under the influence of the Devil.

4:83 And when a matter of security or fear reaches them, they broadcast it; but had they referred it to the Messenger or the people in authority among them (the Companions of the Prophet) those of them who investigate it would comprehend it. Had it not been for Allah’s Bounty to you and His Mercy, you would all surely have followed the Devil, except for a few.

The authority granted by Allah to the leaders of the believers is very much that of a Commander-in-Chief in keeping with a religion that finds itself often at war (“Islam was never a religion of peace. Islam is the religion of fighting.” Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, in an audio message made public May 14, 2015).

4:84 So, fight for the cause of Allah; you are charged only of yourself. Urge the believers on that Allah may perchance restrain the unbelievers’ might. Allah’s might is greater, and greater is His Retribution!

Actions speak louder than words.

24:52 Those who obey Allah and His Messenger and fear Allah and beware Him; those are the real winners.

24:53 They (the hypocrites, Moududi) swear their most solemn oats that, should you order them, they will go forth. Say: “Do not swear; it is a well-known obedience. Allah is fully conversant with what you do.”

24:54 Say: “Obey Allah and obey the Messenger; but if you turn away, then upon him (the Prophet) rests what he was charged with, and upon you what you were charged with. However, if you obey him, you will be well-guided. It is only incumbent on the Messenger to deliver the manifest message.”

Believers will inherit the land they occupy: “He will surely make them successors in the land.”

24:55 Allah promised those of you who have believed and done the righteous deeds that He will surely make them successors in the land, and He made those who came before them successors, and that He will establish firmly for them their religion, which He chose for them, and that He will give them, as a substitute for their fear, security. “They worship Me and do not associate anything with Me. He who disbelieves afterwards – those are the real sinners.”

24:56 Perform the prayer, give the alms and obey the Messenger, that perchance you might receive mercy.

The unbelievers are no match for Allah, therefore, “put your trust in the Living God…Who created the heavens and the earth and what lies between them is six days.”

24:57 Do not suppose that the unbelievers are able to thwart Allah on earth. Their refuge shall be the Fire, and what a wretched fate!

25:58 Put your trust in the Living God who does not die and sing His Praise. He suffices as the All-Informed Knower of the sins of His servants,

25:59 Who created the heavens and the earth and what lies between them is six days. Then the Compassionate sat upon the Throne. So ask about Him, the Well-Informed.

 Prostrate yourselves to whomever Muhammad orders!

25:60 And if it said to them: “Prostrate yourselves before the Compassionate”; they reply: “But who is the Compassionate? Shall we prostrate ourselves to what you (Muhammad) order us?” This only increases their aversion.

A reminder in whose good company those who risk everything, including their lives—when exhorted to ”go forth from your homes” by Muhammad—will find themselves in.

4:66 And had We commanded them: “Slay yourselves or go forth from your homes, they would not have done it, except a few of them; but had they done what they were exhorted to do (obey the Prophet), it would have been far better for them and more reinforcing.

4:67 And then We would surely have bestowed on them a great reward from Ourselves.

4:68 And We would have guided them to a straight path.

4:69 Those who obey Allah and the Messenger will be in the company of those whom God favoured of the Prophets, the saints, the martyrs and the righteous people. What excellent companions they are!

4:70 Such is the Bounty of Allah; Allah suffices as Knower.

Muhammad Held Harmless

Some believers only submitted to Muhammad’s judgement when they were sure he would rule in their favour.

24:46 We have sent down (in this Qur’an) signs making everything clear, and Allah guides whoever He pleases to a straight path.

24:47 They say: “We believe in Allah and the Messenger and we obey.” Then a group of them turn away, afterwards. Those are not real believers.

24:48 And if they are called unto Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, behold, a group of them turns away.

24:49 But if they have the right, they come to him (the Prophet) submissively.[23]

24:50 Is there a sickness in their hearts, or are they in doubt, or do they fear Allah and His Messenger might deal with them unjustly? No, those are the wrongdoers.

24:51 As to the believers, if they are called unto Allah and His Messenger to judge between them, they only say: “We hear and obey.” Those are the prosperous.

Muhammad was held harmless by Allah if he was tricked into rendering the wrong decision. A “hold harmless” clause states that one or both parties to an agreement will not hold the other responsible for losses or damages arising out of their contractual arrangement. The Koran contains an equivalent clause: “They do not cause you any harm” in Revelation 4:113, which, as Moududi explains, “if some people succeeded in their design to obtain from the Prophet a wrong judgement in their favour by presenting a false account of events, the real loss would have been theirs rather than the Prophet's.”

4:111 And whoever commits a sin, will only commit it against himself. Allah is All-Knowing, Wise!

4:112 And whoever commits an offence or a sin then charges an innocent man with it bears the burden of a falsehood and a manifest sin.

4:113 And, but for Allah’s Bounty and Mercy upon you (Muhammad), a group of them would have tried to lead you astray; however, they only lead themselves astray. They do not cause you any harm. Allah has revealed to you the Book and the Wisdom and taught you what you did not know, and Allah’s Goodness to you has been great.

There are some things that need not be revealed to the authorities.

4:114 There is no good in much of their secret talk, except for him who enjoins charity, kindness and conciliation between people. Whoever does that seeking God’s good Pleasure, We will surely grant him a great reward.

Oppose Muhammad after he has made you aware of the Koran, and the least you can expect is to burn in Hell for an eternity.

4:115 But he who opposes the Messenger after the guidance has been manifested to him, and follows the path other than that of the believers, We will let him follow the way he has chosen for himself, and throw him into Hell; and what a wretched faith!


[23] "This verse states that a person who willingly accepts only that part of the divine law which serves his advantage, but rejects that which goes against his interests and desires, and prefers the worldly laws instead, is not a believer but a hypocrite." Moududi

Deuteronomy 22:23-4 Upheld

4:60 Have you not seen those who pretend that they believe in what has been revealed to you and what was revealed before you? They wish to submit their disputes to the Devil (the reference is said to be to a Jew call Ka’b Ibn al-Ashraf, who was a bitter enemy of the Muslims), although they have been commanded to denounce him; but the Devil wishes to lead them far astray.

4:61 And if it is said to them: “Turn now to what Allah has revealed and to the Messenger”, you will find the hypocrites turning away from you with aversion.

4:62 How then if they are afflicted with a disaster on account of what their own hands perpetrated, they come to you swearing by Allah: “We only sought kindness and conciliation”?

4:63 Allah knows what is in the hearts of those ones; so leave them alone, admonish them and say to them effective words about themselves.

4:64 We have not sent forth a Messenger, but that he may be obeyed by Allah’s Leave. And had they, having wronged themselves, come to you and asked for Allah’s Forgiveness and the Messenger had asked forgiveness for them, then they would have found Allah All-Forgiving, Merciful.

4:65 But no, by your Lord they will not believe until they call you to arbitrate in their dispute; then they will not be embarrassed regarding your verdict and will submit fully.

Under the Constitution of Medina, negotiated by Muhammad between the Jewish and Arab tribes who shared the city where he obtained refuge from his Meccan kin, the Jews of the city were not required to have Muhammad arbitrate disputes and rule on issues of crime and punishment. These would continue to be decided by their community leaders, e.g., rabbis. This had not always been the case and did not always sit well, as is evident by Revelation 4:60. The Jews’ reluctance to bring further cases to Muhammad to arbitrate may have had to do with a case they brought before him hoping he would lessen the punishment (remember, revelation numbers usually are not indicative of the order in which they were received). First, the story behind the story as told by Moududi from commentaries on the Koran by Ibn Kathir:

The particular case referred to here was that of a woman belonging to a respectable family, who was found to be involved in an unlawful sexual relationship with a man. The punishment for this in the Torah was that both be stoned to death (see Deuteronomy 22:23-4). But the Jews did not want to enforce this punishment. Hence they deliberated among themselves and decided to put the case before the Prophet (peace be on him), with the reservation that his judgement be accepted only if it was other than stoning. The Prophet (peace be on him) decided that the punishment should, in fact, be stoning.

When the Jews declined to accept the judgement, the Prophet (peace be on him) asked their rabbis what punishment had been prescribed for such a case in their religion. They replied that it was to strike the culprit with lashes, to blacken the face and to make the person concerned ride on a donkey. The Prophet (peace be on him) asked them under oath if the Torah had indeed prescribed that as punishment for adultery committed by married men and women.

They repeated the same false reply. However, one of them called Ibn Sawriya[24] who, according to the Jews themselves, was the greatest living scholar of the Torah at that time, kept silent. The Prophet (peace be on him) asked him to state on oath in the name of God, Who had emancipated them from Pharaoh and had given them the Law, whether the punishment for adultery provided for in the Torah was what they had mentioned. He replied: 'Had you not put me under such a heavy oath, I would not have volunteered the correct information...’ This left the Jews with nothing to say and the adulterer and adulteress were, in accordance with the order of the Prophet (peace be on him), stoned to death.

The Jews did not get the judgement they hoped for, which may have prompted Allah’s comment about their altering the words in the Torah.

5:41 O Messenger, do not grieve on account of those who hasten to unbelief, from those who say with their mouths: “We believe”, while their hearts do not believe; or those Jews who listen to falsehood or listen to other people who did not come to you, and who alter the words (in the Torah). They say: “If you are given this (if you are given by Muhammad something similar to what we say); then take it, and if you are not given it, then beware!” Whoever Allah wishes to leave in error, you can do nothing to save him from Allah. Those whose hearts Allah does not wish to purify will have nothing but disgrace in this world, and a terrible punishment in the world to come.

God had a message for Muhammad before he took on the case.

5:42 They are consistent listeners to falsehood, devourers of unlawful gain. Should they come to you, either judge between them or turn away from them. If you turn away from them, they will not harm you in the least; but if you judge, judge between them justly. Allah loves those who act justly!

Nonetheless, God admits to being confused that the Jews would ask Muhammad to render a judgement in this matter when they have the Torah with His Instructions.

5:43 But how will they ask you to judge, when they are in possession of the Torah, which contains Allah’s Judgement! Thus they soon turn away. Those people are not real believers!

The Jews wanted to exercise discretion in applying one of the more horrific punishment prescribed in the Torah. Allah would have none of it and neither would Muhammad; those who would do that “are the unbelievers” of Revelation 5:44 and “the evildoers” in 5:45.

5:44 We have indeed revealed the Torah, wherein is guidance and light. By it the Prophets who submitted themselves [to Allah] did judge among the Jews, as did the rabbis and the masters, according to what they were made to guard of Allah’s Book and were witnesses thereof. So fear not men, but fear Me and do not sell my revelations for a small price Whoever does not judge according to what Allah has revealed those are the unbelievers!

5:45 And We prescribed to them therein (the Torah) that a life for a life, an eye for an eye, a nose for a nose, an ear for an ear, a tooth for a tooth, and for wounds retaliation; but whoever forgoes it charitably, it will be an atonement for him. Whoever does not judge according to what Allah has revealed, those are the evildoers!


[24] In a hadith about this arbitration, the scholar is a Jewish convert to Islam by the name of Abdullah bin Salam, (see 1001 Sayings and Deeds of the Prophet Muhammad: "Abdullah bin Salam," Boreal Books).