Was Muhammad Possessed and Suicidal?

A questioner posed the following: as I was surfing the Internet to find out more information about the religion Islam, I came across a Web site that has really got me thinking and also disturbed me in some way.

From one Web site, I have read that Muhammad was possessed with demons and also several times he tried to commit suicide. I want you to be able to tell me something that can get this question cleared off my chest, as I keep on thinking about.

In response to the question, Dr. Dr. Jasser Auda answered:

First, I am not sure what that other Web site meant by “demons” or what they were trying to refer to. Did they mean the revelation itself or the story of black magic narrated in some books? If by “possessed by demons” they meant that Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) narrated how he saw Angel Gabriel and received the verses of the Qur’an from him, then it is a question of whether you believe in heavenly religions in general or not. I mean, if you are a believer in God and that God sends messages to humankind through angels, then Muhammad is not different from any other prophet in that regard.

If they were referring to the story of black magic, then you should know that authentic collections of Hadith did mention the story, but not all sources confirmed that the Prophet was affected by the magic. The story goes that some old woman did some magic on the Prophet to make him impotent. What all authentic narration mentions is that the Prophet asked the angel what he should do if somebody tried to harm him with magic and the angel commended him to seek refuge in God and his faith and read some surahs from the Qur’an.

Regarding the “suicide” story, it is true that Prophet Muhammad, after seeing the angel a few times at the beginning of his prophethood, thought that the angel would never visit him again. After the Prophet assumed his position of prophethood and started to invite people to believe in God, the angel did not appear to him for a long period of time (somewhere between 3 months and a year, according to different narrations). The Prophet felt so terrible about losing his heavenly support, “to the extent of thinking of throwing himself from the top of the mountain,” the narration goes.

The Prophet never “tried to commit suicide,” as the Web site you are referring to was saying. There is no narration or even a lie that talked about such “attempted suicide” in any historical account. But the narration that I am referring to here is simply showing a human prophet who felt so distressed for the thought that God is displeased with him and, therefore, had forsaken him. However, the Prophet remained patient until God revealed to him the verses that mean:

{By the glorious morning light, and by the night when it is still, your Guardian-Lord has not forsaken you, nor is He displeased. And verily the Hereafter will be better for you than the present. And soon will your Guardian-Lord give you (that wherewith) you shall be well-pleased. Did He not find you an orphan and give you shelter (and care)? And He found you wandering, and He gave you guidance. And He found you in need, and made you independent. Therefore, treat not the orphan with harshness, nor repulse the petitioner (unheard); but the bounty of the Lord rehearse and proclaim!} (Ad-Duha 93:1–11)

Finally, I think that these Web sites which you referred to are being extremely unfair to the Prophet of Islam. Muhammad’s life is not about magic or attempted suicides! Muhammad’s life is about believing in God, the Creator of our existence, calling people to that belief, and a message of morality that he tried to convey to humankind.

He said, “I was sent mainly to perfect good morals.” And he said, “I was sent with a tolerant message of the oneness of God.” God says in the Qur’an what means:

{And We have not sent you but as a mercy to the worlds.} (Al-Anbiyaa’ 21:107)
This is what Muhammad is about.

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