There are basically two reasons for the rise of this doctrine.
Firstly, the early Muslims soon discovered that the Bible taught plainly that Jesus was the only sinless man that ever lived and, confronted with this evidence, deemed it necessary to invent the fiction that all the prophets — especially Muhammad — were sinless as well. A superiority of Jesus over Muhammad could not be tolerated and, just as miracles were attributed to the figurehead of Islam to give him a status at least equal to that of Jesus, so he was also held to be sinless for the same purpose.
Secondly, the doctrine of revelation in Islam holds that the scriptures were dictated directly to the prophets by the intermediary angel (Gabriel) and it was therefore believed that the prophets must have possessed an impeccable character for, if they could not keep themselves from error in their personal lives, how could they be trusted to communicate God’s revelation without error?
This latter presupposition led perforce to the conclusion that the prophets must have been sinless.”
The Quranic word used in these verses for sin is “dhanb“, or “thanb“, depending on how one transliterates the word.
Both Islam and Christianity teach that Jesus was not a sinner. In the Bible, it is explicitly stated that Jesus had no sin.
THE QURANIC EVIDENCE THAT MUHAMMAD WAS A SINNER
In the night’s stillness, far from the crowd and alone with the thoughts of his heart, a man prays confessing the truth he knows within his soul:
“Oh God, I acknowledge and confess before You, all my sins, please forgive them, as no one can forgive sins except You. Forgive my mistakes, those done intentionally, or out of my ignorance, with or without seriousness. Oh God, forgive my sins and my ignorance, forgive my sins of the past and of the future, which I did openly or secretly. Forgive the wrong I have done, jokingly or seriously. I seek Your protection from all the evil I have done. Wash away my sins, and cleanse my heart, from all the sins as a white garment is cleansed from the filth, and let there be long distance between me and my sins, as You made the East and West far from each other.”
That prayer expressed a heart that understood the depth of sin in its soul. It acknowledges a nature within that is bent towards sin. And it reflects the desire to cleanse that depth of sin. We hear in that prayer a man’s struggle with sin. He asks forgiveness for his past and future sins, because he knows that as a normal man, he is going to sin. It is inevitable. He asks for forgiveness for things he has done intentionally, and unintentionally. He asks forgiveness for mistakes and sins, those done intentionally or unintentionally. He knows that the sins he committed are “evil“, and confesses that to God. He does not make light of his sins. The sins he committed are “filth” in God’s eyes.
That prayer was prayed by Muhammad. It is a synthesis of his personal prayers found in Sahih Bukhari Volume 8: #s 335, 379, 407, and 408.
Muhammad knew clearly he was a sinner; thus he makes his confession public. Over and over again he stated he was a sinner. The Quran he spoke identifies him as a sinner. Yet many Muslims today say that Muhammad was not a sinner.
QUESTION: Muhammad said he was a sinner, why do many Muslims contradict Muhammad and say he is not a sinner?
Before addressing that question, let us examine the later Muslim’s argument that he was not a sinner. And, let us examine Quranic / Hadith evidence that Muhammad was a sinner.
Many Muslims believe that Allah gives a special protection to his prophets from being “sinners“.
The Quran identifies Muhammad as a sinner: 40:55, 48:2, and 47:19 : We should let the Quran interpret itself.
40:55 … So be patient, [O Muhammad]. Indeed, the promise of Allah is truth. And ask forgiveness for your sin and exalt [ Allah ] with praise of your Lord in the evening and the morning.
48:1 … Indeed, We have given you, [O Muhammad], a clear conquest
48:2 … so that God may forgive you your past and future sins, and perfect His goodness to you; …
Below is the Quran 47:19 in five English translations, (NOTE: Muhammad is asking for forgiveness for both himself and his followers).
So know, [O Muhammad], that there is no deity except Allah and ask forgiveness for your sin and for the believing men and believing women. And Allah knows of your movement and your resting place.
So know (O Muhammad SAW) that La ilaha ill-Allah (none has the right to be worshipped but Allah), and ask forgiveness for your sin, and also for (the sin of) believing men and believing women. And Allah knows well your moving about, and your place of rest (in your homes).
So know (O Muhammad) that there is no Allah save Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy sin and for believing men and believing women. Allah knoweth (both) your place of turmoil and your place of rest.
So know that there is no god but Allah, and, ask protection for your fault and for the believing men and the believing women; and Allah knows the place of your returning and the place of your abiding.
So know that there is no god except Allah, and ask forgiveness for your guilty deed, and for the male believers and female believers; and Allah knows your moving about and your lodging.
Know, therefore, that there is no god but Allah, and ask forgiveness for thy fault, and for the men and women who believe: for Allah knows how ye move about and how ye dwell in your homes.
Clearly the Quran identifies Muhammad as a sinner. It is definitely applied to Muhammad. Since some Muslims argue that Muhammad was not a sinner, they have to resort to re-interpreting the Quranic word, “dhanb“. So, what does that word “dhanb” mean in the context of the Quran? We have to address the true meaning of this word — is it “sin“, meaning something that God will judge, or is it “fault” defined as meaning something that is very minor and easily excusable by God?
To understand the context of the word, we should let the context of how the word is used throughout the Quran speak.
I have found the word used about 39 times in the Quran. In some cases it is used without a reference, e.g. 3:31, “Say, “If you love God, follow me. God will love you and forgive your sins…”. We have no reference as to what those “sins” consisted.
However, “dhanb” is used many other times with a contextual reference. I encourage all Muslims to search through their Quran to find an example of Allah lightly treating “dhanb“. Study the Quran to find something contrary to the harsh judgement that Allah proscribes to those who commit of “dhanb“. I have found none.
I present 3 of them because I want to establish exactly the Quran’s severity of this word :
3:11 (Their plight will be) no better than that of the people of Pharaoh and their predecessors: they denied Our Signs and Allah called them to account for their sins. For Allah is strict in punishment.
Allah called Pharaoh’s people to account for their sins, and they were punished for their “dhanb“.
3:16 (Namely) those who say: “Our Lord! we have indeed believed: forgive us then our sins and save us from the agony of the fire.”
Here we see people asking forgiveness for their “dhanb” because without forgiveness of their “dhanb” they will end up in the agony of fire (hell).
5:18 (Both) the Jews and the Christians say: “We are sons of Allah and His beloved.” Say: “Why then doth He punish you for your sins? Nay ye are but men,- of the men He hath created: He forgiveth whom He pleaseth and He punisheth whom He pleaseth: and to Allah belongeth the dominion of the heavens and the earth and all that is between: and unto Him is the final goal (of all).”
Here Muhammad is saying that Christians and Jews are being punished by Allah for the “dhanb“. Thus their “dhanb” earns punishment from Allah, not a wink of an eye.
Let’s review. “Dhanb” is translated as sin, crime, & fault. How does Allah deal with people who have committed dhanb? Allah –
And remember, Muhammad committed “dhanb“. Muhammad was told to ask forgiveness for his “dhanb“. And Muhammad taught in the Quran that forgiveness of “dhanb” was required to get into Paradise. Otherwise, a person with unforgiven “dhanb” ends up in hell.
EVIDENCE FROM THE HADITH THAT MUHAMMAD WAS A SINNER :
Earlier I synthesized portions from Muhammad’s prayers, recorded in Bukhari’s Hadith. Here are the four Hadith in full.
In these prayers, Muhammad uses a different word for sin. Instead of using “dhanb“, he uses the root word “khati’a“.
The Encyclopedia of Islam defines Khati’a as:
“Moral lapse, sin, a synonym of dhanb. The root means “to fail, stumble“, “make a mistake“, “of an archer whose arrow misses the target“.
8.335 : Narrated Shaddad bin ‘Aus: The Prophet said, “The most superior way of asking for forgiveness from Allah is:
‘Allahumma anta Rabbi la ilaha illa anta. Khalaqtani wa ana ‘abduka, wa ana ‘ala ‘ahdika wa Wa’dika mastata’tu abu’u Laka bi ni ‘matika wa abu’u Laka bidhanbi; faghfirli fa’innahu la yaghfiru-dh-dhunuba ill a ant a. A’uidhu bika min sharri ma sana’tu.’ If somebody recites this invocation during the night, and if he should die then, he will go to Paradise (or he will be from the people of Paradise). And if he recites it in the morning, and if he should die on the same day, he will have the same fate.”
The Arabic is translated as:
“Oh Allah! You are my Lord. None has the right to be worshipped but You. You created me, and I am your slave, and I am faithful to my covenant and my promise as much as I can. I acknowledge before You , all the blessings You have bestowed upon me and confess to You all my sins, so please forgive them, as no one can forgive sins except You. And I seek refuge in You from all the evil I have done.”
8.379 : Narrated ‘Aisha :
The Prophet used to say, “O Allah! I seek refuge with You from laziness and geriatric old age, from all kinds of sins and from being in debt; from the affliction of the Fire and from the punishment of the Fire and from the evil of the affliction of wealth; and I seek refuge with You from the affliction of poverty, and I seek refuge with You from the affliction of Al-Masih Ad-Dajjal. O Allah! Wash away my sins with the water of snow and hail, and cleanse my heart from all the sins as a white garment is cleansed from the filth, and let there be a long distance between me and my sins, as You made East and West far from each other.”
8.407 : Narrated Abu Musa: The Prophet used to invoke Allah with the following invocation: ‘Rabbi-ghfir-li Khati ‘ati wa jahli wa israfi fi amri kullihi, wa ma anta a’lamu bihi minni. Allahumma ighfirli khatayaya wa ‘amdi, wa jahli wa jiddi, wa kullu dhalika’indi. Allahumma ighrifli ma qaddamtu wa ma akhartu wa ma asrartu wa ma a’lantu. Anta-l-muqaddimu wa anta-l-mu’akh-khiru, wa anta ‘ala kulli shai’in qadir.’
The Arabic is translated as :
“O my Lord! Forgive my sins and my ignorance and my exceeding the limits of righteousness in all my deeds and what you know better than I. O Allah. Forgive my mistakes, those done intentionally or out of my ignorance or without or with seriousness, and I confess that all such mistakes are done by me. O Allah! Forgive my sins of the past and of the future with I did openly or secretly. You are the One Who makes the things go before and You are the One Who delays them, and You are the Omnipotent.”
8.408 : Narrated Abu Musa Al-Ash’ari: The Prophet used to invoke Allah, saying, “Allahumma ighfirli khati‘ati wa jahli wa israfi fi amri, wa ma anta a-‘lamu bihi minni. Allahumma ighfirli hazali wa jiddi wa khata’i wa amdi, wa kullu dhalika ‘indi.”
The Arabic is translated as :
“O Allah! Forgive my mistakes and my ignorance and my exceeding the limit (boundaries) of righteousness in my deeds; and forgive whatever You know better than I. O Allah! Forgive the wrong I have done jokingly or seriously, and forgive my accidental and intentional errors, all that is present in me.”
Muhammad acknowledged he was a sinner. Don’t Muhammad’s prayers for forgiveness establish the fact that he knew how severe his sins were? He knew Allah punishes sin, and that is why he was always pleading for forgiveness from Allah. Muhammad didn’t want to burn in hell for his crimes.
And, Muhammad did believe and fear he was going to suffer:
Sahih Muslim, , Book 4, Number 1212:
“The Prophet entered my house when a Jewess was with me and she was saying: Do you know that you would be put to trial in the grave? The Messenger of Allah trembled (on hearing this) and said: It is the Jews only who would be put to trial. Aisha said: We passed some nights and then the Messenger of Allah said: Do you know that it has been revealed to me: “You would be put to trial in the grave”? Aisha said: I heard the Messenger of Allah seeking refuge from the torment of the grave after this.”
Allah “revealed” to Muhammad he would be put to trial in the grave. Muhammad constantly prayed for refuge from his upcoming torment. Why?
If Muhammad were so pure and innocent, why would Allah be tormenting him in the grave? Muhammad was aware of his sins, and thus, he prayed for forgiveness.
John 8:32 : “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
Articles by Silas