The Prophet Muhammad and Doubt

There is a new video that has just been uploaded in the past 24 hours to TED – that superb online resource where the world’s leading thinkers and writers share their ideas with the rest of us. The video is by Lesley Hazleton who earlier this year authored a new biography of the Prophet Muhammad called ‘The First Muslim’ – a work that she says took her five years to research.

Lesley Hazleton’s new TED talk is about the Prophet Muhammad and the role that doubt plays in faith. She makes a very persuasive case that doubt is essential to faith and that Muhammad’s immediate response to receiving his first revelation from God in the cave of Hira was not to be overwhelmed by conviction but by doubt.

Hazleton quotes the writer Graham Greene as saying “doubt is the heart of the matter” and adds that if we abolish doubt then all that is left is absolute heartless conviction – in short, the arrogance of fundamentalism.

In a final flourish she takes aim at extremists in all faiths and says “Like fundamentalists of all stripes, they have no questions, only answers.”

Well worth watching.

This entry was posted in Books, Extremism, Islam and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to The Prophet Muhammad and Doubt

  1. Brendan says:

    Thanks for that, it’s a very interesting talk but for someone emphasising the value of doubt she seems pretty certain about what Mohammed thinks about everything!

  2. adeel says:

    Iman poorly translated as faith does not mean belief without rational basis. That is the common cultural understanding assumed in a predominantly atheistic, determinitic, materialistic framework. She does make some interesting points but there is also a lot of semantics and tieing herself in knots by confusing sometimes linguistic meanings with predominant cultural conceptions of words like ‘faith’ and ‘doubt’. Read the Qur’an it will help you with your doubts! You can still have unanswered questions or lack complete understanding in specific matters. However these matters which are a source of unclarity are not a reason for destabilising those matters over which a Muslim should have yaqeen ‘certainty’. Sound rational deduction in all matters relies upon correct information. Human’s are not always privy to those facts. A Newtonian understanding of mechanics made perfect sense until God gifted Einstein with additional information which caused us to re-adjust our outlook. We humans always like to think we have reached a pinnacle in advancement and consequently, over human history the populace will always move towards the dominant paradigm of the day. And then after their death a new ‘more enlightened’paradigm overtakes it. Don’t be so myopic as to constrict your reasoning to the most recent period of historical thought. Cheers for the post

  3. Faiz Mohideen says:

    The prophet was never in doubt of his of his prophethood. The saying quoted is simply not true. Even when he was a boy, a christian monk advised his Uncle Abu Talibto protect his nephew as people will rise against him when he proclaims his prophethood.

    • Hazleton is correct when she says that the Prophet’s first reaction following the revelation in the cave of Hira was fear and doubt. She did not make it up. It’s all there in the earliest biographies of the Prophet. It does not diminish the Prophet – rather, as Hazleton points out, it emphasises that he was very much a man, not a fictional superman or a God.

      • Faiz Mohideen says:

        Hazelton gets her ‘earliest’ sources from the very people who want to denigrate the Prophet. Even Salman Rushdie gets his material from Sahih Bukhari. There is a famous saying of the Prophet “I was a Prophet before Adam was created”.
        Islam was hijacked from the day the Prophet died or even before. His close companions refused to leave the city on an expedition ordered by the Prophet before his death. When he called for ink and paper on his deathbed, a close companion said that he was delusional (God forbid). There are many absudities in ‘Sahih Bukhari’ and Sahih Bukhari is considered by 90% of the Muslims as authentic as the Quran.
        Hazelton is a superb speaker and her sincerity is not in doubt. It is her source that causes coonsern.

  4. Scarlet Bahrum says:

    I would not say he was in doubt.
    He believe in god even before the revelation. Some goes with people in Makkah at that time. The name of Muhammad’s father was Abdullah. means the abd (the slave) to Allah.
    Muhammad was an orphan since he was young. He was so independent (he used to b a shepherd and also used to go bringing stuffs to be traded to other village/ area).
    He got very decent manner result in him being repected by people not only from his tribe.
    He got revelation which is Islam. Islam that means submission to god (read: Allah) that no other thing above the god. Allah higher than everything else. But he was rejected by his own people. Only some follow him at early stage. Why such a respected person when carry La Ilaha Illa Allah (no other thing higher than/ being worshipped except god) being rejected? How big the thing that he brought? Didn’t they had believed that there Iis god?
    The answer is because they need to give up everything that they had had in their life for Allah. They had to forget their status level in community, lifestyle andd their idols that they worshipped as interrmediary to god…………. note they loved their idols so much that they would clean them everyday, talked to them etc etc… plus Iidol business was pretty profitable.
    When she said Muhhamd felt doubt, I couldn’t agree or disagree because doubtness is emotional feeling that is subjective. When people says describe sweet how would you describe it? And jow sure are u the way you experience the sweetness same with others?
    Feeling is so subjective.
    But what I can say, from my teacher and from Sirah (journey od prophets) books Muhammad s.a.w. felt soooo heavy that she shivered underneath blanket after the revelation. Imagine that u have to spread divone message to populations of human being! Allah bless him.
    Because of Islam, the west shifted from dark ages. Study back about al Hambra in Spain, how Islam reached China, how Persia being conquered, the history of Hagia Sophia (used to be a Roman church. Perhaps u can go to Turkey yourself and do some faithful research. Reliable resource!), and how this so called terrorist religion can develop in Uk, Australia and Ireland. Aren’t they clever enough to resist this religion?
    It was our prophwt sunnah (way) to concern every human beings.
    I hope this benefits. Nice day. Assalamualaikum
    Please refer to book Sirah Mustafa Sibaie.

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