The intention of Charlie Hebdo’s surviving editors in publishing another provocative front-page cartoon a week after the attack, this time of a teary Muhammad holding a Je suis Charlie placard under the words Tout est pardonné (“All Is Forgiven”), is obscure and unimportant. One thing is clear, however: the historical Muhammad would never shed tears over M. Charb et al. According to the Hadith, the prophet of Islam was infuriated by humor and satire and personally ordered several impertinent offenders to be murdered.
The victory at Badr (March 13, 624) was one of the decisive moments in Muhammad’s life. The simple preacher of Mecca turned into a vengeful warlord who jubilantly exclaimed that the spectacle of slain enemies pleased him better than “the choicest camel in Arabia.” As he scrutinized prisoners, his eye fell fiercely on one al-Nadr, the narrator whom he had never forgiven the ability to captivate the Meccan audiences with more entertaining tales than his own. On many occasions, as Muhammad was delineating the life of the patriarchs and prophets and giving examples of divine retribution that had fallen on impious nations, al-Nadr would speak after him. He would relate the marvelous exploits of the Persian heroes Rustam and Isfendiar, and finally ask his enchanted audience: “Are the stories of Muhammad more beautiful than mine? He is spouting ancient legends that he has gathered from the mouths of men more learned than he.” The audience would applaud al-Nadr and laugh at Muhammad.
On the day after Badr, it was time for Muhammad to settle the score. Realizing that his fate was sealed, al-Nadr bitterly complained that had the Quraysh taken Muslims prisoner, they would never have killed them. “Even were it so,” Muhammad scornfully replied, “I am not as thou and Islam hath rent all bounds asunder.” Al-Nadr was beheaded by Ali.
Muhammad returned to Medina in triumph and proceeded to settle scores with his detractors there. An atmosphere of fear descended on the city; informers passed all disrespectful or merely careless remarks to the prophet. His first victim was Asma bint Marwan, a poetess who mocked in verse Muhammad and his preaching. In one poem, she urged her fellow-tribesmen not to obey a stranger who did not belong among them. Anticipating Henry II’s outburst, Muhammad exclaimed, “Will no one rid me of this daughter of Marwan?” One of his followers by the name of Umayr duly did, that same night, stabbing her as she nursed her youngest child. After she was murdered, Muhammad praised the killer and assured him that “two goats won’t butt their head about her.” This presumably excluded her children and her family, but the following day they all converted to Islam.
The prophet of Islam took a dim view of poets generally. Allah obligingly conveyed that poets are inspired by Satan and have gone astray (Kuran 26:224). They are possessed (37:35-36) and no better than soothsayers (52:29). This was an obsession with Muhammad. He never mastered the complicated canon of Arab poetry; that he could not respond to his eloquent detractors in kind must have pained him greatly, since it had to be explained away by none other than Allah: “We have not taught versification to our prophet” (36:68-69). Muhammad had other means at his disposal, however, and that was the undoing not only of Asma but also of one Abu Afak, supposedly over a hundred years old, who protested previous murders by the Muslims. Abu Afak also mocked Muhammad in verse, and especially his desire to control people’s lives: “Saying ‘Permitted,’ ‘Forbidden,’ of all sorts of things.” The apostle simply commented, “Who will deal with this rascal for me?” One of his “weepers” did. That a person of so advanced an age should be murdered for a verbal slight would have been inconceivable to the pre-Islamic Arab custom.
(Music did not fare any better with Muhammad than poetry. That mainstream Islam has no music, and that there is no singing at the mosque may be related to Muhammad’s view that “None raised up his voice with a song but Allah sent him two devils upon his shoulders who beat his chest with their heels till he stopped.” He once heard the sound of a flute and put his fingers into his ears and turned to go another way.)
Another doomed poet was Ka’b bin al-Ashraf, a Jew who made up some unsavory humorous verses about Muslim women. That was his undoing, with the prophet simply saying, “O Lord, rid me of the son of Ashfar, however You wish.” Muhammad approved of subterfuge in arranging this murder, and the assassins achieved their goal by pretending to be friendly to the victim until they got him away from his family and out of his house. The contemporary Islamic justification of the murder, directed at the non-Muslim, English-speaking audience, sounds omenous: “Ka’b had become a real danger to the state of peace and mutual trust which the Prophet was struggling to achieve in Madinah. He was dangerous and a public enemy to the nascent Muslim state. The Prophet was quite exasperated with him . . . This was all part of the great process which helped to make Islam spread and establish it on foundations of justice and piety.” Ka’b’s severed head was built into those foundations.
Non, Muhammad n’est pas Charlie, et il ne pardonne rien.