Ali Sina’s “Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography”
For those who are familiar with the extremist Islamophobic website called “Faithfreedom International”, the name of its founder Ali Sina (a pseudonym) is synonymous with the bigotry and vile rhetoric often displayed against Muslims and Islam. This was a person who openly advocated for the atomic bomb to be used on Muslim populations and have many times declared that he will “wipe out” Islam within 30 years. Now this relatively unknown figure within academic circles — apart from becoming the self-appointed hero for the cause of Islamophobia, bigotry and the new emerging school of lay-people and pseudo-scholars — has moved beyond the world that he is more accustomed with on the internet.
Like his predecessors, such as the infamous Robert Spencer of Jihad Watch, Ali Sina is now attempting to make his name within the world of published authors with the publication of his book Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography. Whilst it is true that over the course of years he has gathered a large following of largely misled haters, Ali Sina still has had to resort to self-publishing with a relatively small publishing press where anyone with anything to rant about can publish their own.
The book claims to be a “psychobiography” of the Prophet Muhammad, upon whom be peace, but it is far from being objective and sane in its purported “scholarship”. It claims to refer to the Islāmic religious texts (heavily relying on translations and not the original Arabic sources which betrays the author’s lack of command in the language) and then attempts to characterize Muhammad (SAWS) in “modern analytical terms”. Coming from a Shi’ite background in predominantly Shi’ite Iran, it is not clear from the onset about why Ali Sina favours referring to the Sunni sources such as the hadith collection of Bukhari and Muslim (which is not used by the Shi’a and largely unfamiliar to them) and hardly mentions the Shi’ite sources themselves which talks about the Prophet (SAWS). This leads us to suspect that he may not have the credentials of an Iranian Muslim as he claims to have. Unfortunately, this book does nothing more than to resort to the old underhanded technique of cherry-picking a handful of half-truths, sprinkling them with lies, exaggerations and misrepresentations, and eventually to come up with a twisted mix of politically motivated propaganda.
While Ali Sina believes that his agenda will liberate Muslims, common sense would tell you that Ali Sina’s book comes nowhere close to it. In fact, he is much more likely to lend credence to the grumblings of right-wing nut jobs who want to stoke fear and hatred. The quality of Ali Sina’s “different” pseudo-scholarship is thus displayed by the revival of a long-abandoned polemic against the historical character of the Prophet of Islam – namely, the issue of epilepsy. Nuanced scholars such as the Swedish academic Tor Andrae and prolific writer Karen Armstrong have long dismissed the idea of epilepsy as nonsense. It seems that Ali Sina believes that such studies about the Prophet (SAWS) in historiography should be abandoned and instead we should return to Orientalists such as Margoliouth, Muir and other Christian missionaries who would have us believe that the Prophet (SAWS) was epileptic. Ali Sina consistently malign the Prophet (SAWS) as delusional – while at the same time ignoring that the coherence, completeness and success of Islam in its 1400 years of history show that it cannot be the product of a madman’s mind, nor of that of an epileptic. Ali Sina then calls him (SAWS) a liar (an all too familiar accusation), conveniently ignoring how much he suffered for twenty years before gaining the upper hand and even then he had lived as a poor man with no luxuries. The inconsistencies of Ali Sina’s accusations against the Prophet (P) are themselves testament to the foolishness of his reasoning.
Ali Sina clearly ignores several facts contained within the Sirah itself; that the Prophet (P) spared the Makkans who had tortured and killed his followers for two decades even after conquering them, that he spared all the hypocrites in Madinah undermining his authority (something the man Sina describes would not tolerate), that he had all too often freed prisoners of war freed for no material gain, that he explicitly forbade harming innocent civilians such as women, children, elderly and monks; that he always honoured his treaties even if they were extremely unfair to him (until the disbelievers broke them), that his stories are filled with instances where he spared men who were out to kill him, that as soon as someone became Muslim, he forgave all their past evils, betrayals and murders. The only people that the Prophet (SAWS) was harsh with were with those who were treacherous and betrayed their pacts to turn on the Muslims to destroy them in their weakest moment – which is considered as high treason in times of war. Ali Sina deviously omits the context and interpreted such acts as something that the Prophet (SAWS) habitually does, which is nothing short of deception to his readers.
Perhaps we should not be surprised at his attempts of ad hominem and poisoning of the well; after all, Ali Sina’s methodology is consistent with his use of “weak Hadiths”, saying of the Prophet (SAWS) that are not accepted by Muslims or are seen as weak souces for the religion. Further, this short list of verses from the Holy Qur’an shows Islam in different light and contradicts the conclusions made by Ali Sina:
“There is no compulsion in religion, for the right way is clearly from the wrong way. Whoever therefore rejects the forces of evil and believes in God, he has taken hold of a support most unfailing, which shall never give way, for God is All Hearing and Knowing.”Qur’an, 2:256
“And so (O Prophet!), exhort them your task is only to exhort; you cannot compel them to believe.” Qur’an, 88:21,22; also see Qur’an 24:54
“Allah forbids you not, with regard to those who fight you not for (your) Faith nor drive you out of your homes, from dealing kindly and justly with them: for Allah loveth those who are just.” Qur’an, 60:8
The only people who would “love” this book are either psychologically demented — similar to Ali Sina himself — disaffected Muslims who have been hurt in the past and want to blame someone for their problems, or they are extremist Hindus and right-wing Christians who would like nothing better than to rationalize their extremist racism and xenophobic hatred with spurious scholarship. Muhammad (SAWS) did not witness any insurrections or attempts on his life at the hands of his own followers. Not even after his death did anyone attempt to assassinate his memory or desecrate his grave. Instead, the Prophet’s (SAWS) example spawned an empire that ruled over the Middle East for one thousand years and saw a revival of culture and learning the likes of which was not seen in the West until the Age of Enlightenment.
In summarizing this tiresome work, “Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography” is not a biography at all, much less a “psychobiography”, of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) but a pathetic attempt at character assassination and the rehashing of age-old polemics dating as far as the earliest days of Orientalism. In fact, the author’s methodology is consistent with what that is found on his website and other atheist websites online. It is simply bad history and even worse psychology by a man who can claim to be neither a historian nor a psychologist. He simply repeats the lying polemics of Serge Trifkovic, Robert Spencer, Ayaan Hirsi Ali and other atheists who have an axe to grind against Islam. When bigots and extremists approach any text, be it the Turner Diaries, the Bible, the Qur’an, Nietzsche or the Sirah literature, they cannot be divorced from contextual hermeneutics. The reason Ali Sina views the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) in such light is simply a case of trying to find a demon through the nitpicking of isolated incidents. Indeed, if one were to play with such rhetoric, one could find justification for the Holocaust, even within the New Testament as Hitler did.
We have come to the conclusion that a brief psycho-analysis of Ali Sina will find that he is simply a bigoted, disaffected former Muslim who is no doubt working out issues with his painful upbringing at the hands of his puritanical parents, cruel Islāmic clergy or perhaps a child-molesting Iranian mullah (or whatever the thorn in his side may be), as in his book he has focused all his rage into painting the most ugly portrait of the Prophet Muhammad (SAWS) that can ever be conceived by the most insane mind.