Your answer Susan (i'm not ducking the question) both sides of stories are told
Submitted by Moderate Muslim (United States), Feb 28, 2007 at 20:39
There have been several incidents recorded in Islamic histories and hadith that have served as the basis for criticisms of Muhammad's alleged cruel and unforgiving behavior in war.
Ibn Ishaq relates that, while in a certain town, Muhammad gave license to his men to "kill any Jew who falls into your power." In short order, Muhayyisa ibn Mas'ud slew a Jewish merchant named Ibn Sunayna. When Muhayyisa's brother Huwayyisa confronted him about the deed, he boasted that "had Muhammad commanded him to murder his (Muhayyisa's) brother, he would have done so." This display of faith caused Huwayyisa to convert to Islam on the spot, proclaiming that "any religion that can bring you to this is indeed wonderful!" (This story is partially corroborated in a hadith ).
Ibn Warraq believes this illustrates a "ruthless fanaticism into which the teaching of the Prophet was fast drifting." Scholar Daniel W. Brown concurs with this story, but does not pass judgment. In response, some Muslims question the reliability of the hadith in which the story appears (specifically, claiming that its isnad is weak). They also claim that Ibn Hisham, a disciple of Ibn Ishaq who edited his work, questioned Ishaq's timing of the incident, casting doubt on the story's accuracy as a whole. Also, in answering criticisms of this type, some Muslim scholars argue that Muhammad's actions disqualify him as God's spokesman only if such actions also disqualify men like Joshua, or conversely compare Muhammad favorably with Old Testament figures like Joshua
Muhammad is also criticised for the alleged massacre of men from a tribe of Jews called the Banu Qurayza, in 627. These Jews, living inside the Medina, had apparently broken their covenant with Muhammad (possibly for the second time) and given aid to his enemies during the Battle of the Trench.[dubious — see talk page] In that battle, a large force formed by a coalition of Meccans and their allies besieged the significantly outnumbered Muslims in Medina. Ibn Ishaq writes that Muhammad approved the beheading of some 600-900 individuals who surrendered unconditionally after a siege that lasted several weeks, and also relates how Ka'b, the leader of the Qurayza, was convinced to turn against Muhammad via the exhortations of an enemy leader named Huyayy ibn Akhtab. (Also see Bukhari 5:59:362) (Yusuf Ali notes that the Qur'an discusses this battle in verses 33:10-27). The women and children were sold into slavery.
Some critics believe this event set a disturbing precedent in Islamic law that established the right of Muslim captors to show no mercy to captives of war. However, supporters such as John L. Esposito claim that Muhammad was justified in his actions (or at least not at fault by the standards of that time) because the Qurayza Jews had, in fact, been negotiating with the Muslims' enemies. Still others don't attempt to justify the event, but instead question the validity of the story itself, noting that Ibn Ishaq supposedly gathered many details of the incident from descendants of the Qurayza Jews themselves. These Jews allegedly embellished or manufactured details of the incident by borrowing from histories of Jewish persecutions during Roman times.
Another controversial story is that of an attack on a Jewish settlement called Khaybar. After its last fort was taken by Muhammad and his men, the chief of the Jews, called Kinana ibn al-Rabi, was asked by Muhammad to reveal the location of some hidden treasure. When he refused, Muhammad ordered a man to torture Kinana, and the man "kindled a fire with flint and steel on his chest until he was nearly dead." Kinana was then beheaded, and Muhammad took his young wife Safiyya bint Huyayy According to Al-Bukhari, Muslims wondered if she was to be a concubine or a wife to Muhammad, and speculated that if he ordered her to veil herself, she will be one of the "Mothers of the Believers" (one of his wives), but if he does not, then she would become a concubine of his. Muhammad threw his own mantle on her, and took her for wife. Some think that Muhammad married Safiyya as part of a deal to conclude a peace treaty. Muslim scholar Maulana Muhammad Ali holds that Muhammad married the widowed Safiyya, who had supposedly already fallen into his hands as a captive, as a gesture of goodwill.
Critics take these events, especially the story of the torture of Kinana, to be another blot on Muhammad's character. Those few Western scholars who discuss the alleged torture of Kinana, like William Muir, do not question the validity of the story. Muslims generally dispute this incident. Some claim that this was yet another story that Ibn Ishaq heard second-hand from Jewish sources, casting doubt on its authenticity. Others argue that Kinana was killed in battle and never taken captive.
 Ownership of slaves
Main article: Muhammad's slaves
Some scholars criticise the Islamic world for allegedly having allowed slavery to persist for some time after it was abolished in the West. Rodney Stark points to the example set by Muhammad as a possible reason for this, saying that "the fundamental problem facing Muslim theologians vis-a-vis the morality of slavery is that Muhammad bought, sold, captured, and owned slaves." Although he does admit that Muhammad "advise(d) that slaves be treated well," he contrasts Islam with Christianity, implying that Christian theologians wouldn't have been able to "work their way around the biblical acceptance of slavery" if Jesus had owned slaves like Muhammad did.
Muhammad is criticised for apparently having had a child by a slave girl called Maria or Mariyah, who was a present from the Byzantie ruler of Egypt. By some accounts Muhammad did not marry her because she would not convert to Islam, though other Islamic researchers claim that Muhammad was indeed married to Mariyah.
However, some defend Muhammad by highlighting his supposed fair treatment of slaves. For example, there was a slave called Zayd ibn Harithah, whom Muhammad freed and adopted. Zayd may have been the first male to convert to Islam, and later became a trusted companion to Muhammad. One early biography relates Muhammad as having said that "he (Zayd b. Harithah) was one of the dearest to me of all men." Additionally, some Muslims point to the following hadith as evidence that Muhammad saw all men as being equal under God:" (Narrated Abu Hurayrah:) The Prophet (peace_be_upon_him) said: None of you must say: "My slave" (abdi) and "My slave-woman" (amati), and a slave must not say: "My lord" (rabbi or rabbati). The master (of a slave) should say: "My young man" (fataya) and "My young woman" (fatati), and a slave should say "My master" (sayyidi) and "My mistress" (sayyidati), for you are all Allah's slave and the Lord is Allah, Most High. (Abu Dawud 41:4957) "
Muhammad is reported to have mysterious seizures at the moments of inspiration. Welch, a scholar of Islamic studies, in Encyclopedia of Islam states that the graphic descriptions of Muhammad's condition at these moments may be regarded as genuine, since they are unlikely to have been invented by later Muslims. According to Welch, these seizures should have been the most convincing evidence for the superhuman origin of Muhammad's inspirations for people around him. Muhammad's enemies however accused him as one possessed, a soothsayer, or a magician since these experiences made an impression similar to those soothsayer figures well known in ancient Arabia. Welch states it remains uncertain whether Muhammad had such experiences before he began to see himself as a prophet and if so how long did he have such experiences. 
Commenting on the seizures, critics have brought up what they see as evidence of psychological problems. Some specifically categorize his religious revelations as the product of these alleged problems. D. S. Margoliouth claims that there are confirmations that the 'strange fits' that allegedly beset Muhammad while he was receiving revelation were a sign of epilepsy, and were even occasionally faked for effect. Sprenger attributes Muhammad's revelations to epileptic fits or a "paroxysm of cataleptic insanity." In an essay that discusses views of Muhammad's psychology, Dr. Franz Bul is said to have observed that "hysterical natures find unusual difficulty and often complete inability to distinguish the false from the true", and to have thought this to be the "the safest way to interpret the strange inconsistencies in the life of the Prophet." In the same essay Dr. D. B. Mcdonald is credited with the opinion that "fruitful investigation of the Prophet's life (should) proceed upon the assumption that he was fundamentally a pathological case."
William Montgomery Watt disagrees with the epilepsy diagnosis. First, he claims that Muhammad did not even have epilepsy, saying that "there are no real grounds for such a view." Elaborating, he says that "epilepsy leads to physical and mental degeneration, and there are no signs of that in Muhammad." He then goes further and states that Muhammad was psychologically sound in general: "he (Muhammad) was clearly in full possession of his faculties to the very end of his life." Finally, he implies that these types of accusations aren't relevant to the question of the reality of Muhammad's revelations, which should be left to theologians to argue. "These physical accompaniments... can never either prove or disprove the truth of the content of the experiences."
Gary Miller disputes claims that Muhammad was deluded. He states that if the Qur'an was originated from some psychological problems in Muhammed's mind, there would have been evidence of it in the Qur'an. Miller finds no such evidence, seeing it as a remarkably stable book that doesn't shows any sign of being affected by intense issues going on in Muhammad's mind such as the death of his wife and children and his fear of the initial revelations.
Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".
Reader comments (2100) on this item
Comment on this item
Support Daniel Pipes' work with a tax-deductible donation to the Middle East Forum. Daniel J. Pipes