Muhammad as Al-Amin (the Trustworthy)

How His Enemies Really Viewed Him

Sam Shamoun

A typical argument often made by Muslim polemicists in defense of their prophet’s honesty is that Muhammad was given the epithet Al-Ameen (or Amin), meaning the Trustworthy, by his kinsmen long before his alleged commission by God. They gave him this title, so it is claimed, because they considered him to be the best man among them, one who was never known to have told a lie. The following hadith is submitted as evidence for this assertion:

"… He [Heraclius] said, ‘Had you ever blamed him for telling lies before he claimed what he claimed?’ I replied, ‘No.’ … He said, ‘Does he break his promises?’ I replied, ‘No, but we are now at truce with him and we are afraid that he may betray us.’ … . ‘When I asked you whether he was ever blamed for telling lies, your reply was in the negative, so I took it for granted that a person who did not tell a lie about (others) the people could never tell a lie about Allah. I asked you whether he had ever broken his promise. You replied in the negative. And such are the apostles; they never break their promises…’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 4, Book 52, Number 191)

Here, Abu Sufyan, who was Muhammad’s enemy at this time, admitted in an alleged meeting he had with the Byzantium emperor Heraclius that Muhammad never told a lie and always kept his word.

The following is another narration quoted by Muslims to support that even unbelievers readily admitted that Muhammad was never known to have lied to anyone:

It is reported on the authority of Ibn 'Abbas that when this verse was revealed: "And warn thy nearest kindred (and thy group of selected people among them)" the Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) set off till he climbed Safa' and called loudly: Be on your guard! They said: Who is it calling aloud? They said: Muhammad. They gathered round him, and he said: O sons of so and so, O sons of so and so, O sons of 'Abd Manaf, O sons of 'Abd al-Muttalib, and they gathered around him. He (the Apostle) said: If I were to inform you that there were horsemen emerging out of the foot of this mountain, would you believe me? They said: We have not experienced any lie from you. He said: Well, I am a warner to you before a severe torment. He (the narrator) said that Abu Lahab then said: Destruction to you! Is it for this you have gathered us? He (the Holy Prophet) then stood up, and this verse was revealed: "Perish the hands of Abu Lahab, and he indeed perished" (cxi. 1). A'mash recited this to the end of the Sura. (Sahih Muslim, Book 001, Number 0406)

Muslims believe (*) that the foregoing narratives provide persuasive evidence that Muhammad was of an impeccable character and wasn't someone who would simply make up a false claim that God had chosen him to be his prophet/messenger.

There are several problems with this claim, not the least of which is the fact that there are no written records produced by Muhammad’s contemporaries that have come down to us. All the records that we do have were written by Muslims, and even these were produced long after Muhammad’s death.

Moreover, these Islamic reports are suspect since Muslims have/had the tendency of fabricating stories and statements in order to make Islam’s prophet look much better, even better than the Quran’s depiction of him! It, therefore, doesn’t come as a surprise that such sources would have Muhammad’s enemies speaking highly of his character and honesty.

Additionally, the Quran serves as a witness against this oft-repeated assertion since it actually records the statements of the unbelievers:

We know indeed that it grieves thee the things they say; yet it is not thee they cry lies to, but the evildoers - it is the signs of God that they deny. S. 6:33 Arberry

And if they call you a liar, say: My work is for me and your work for you; you are clear of what I do and I am clear of what you do. S. 10:41 Shakir

And they say: "O you (Muhammad SAW) to whom the Dhikr (the Qur'an) has been sent down! Verily, you are a mad man (majnoonun). Why do you not bring angels to us if you are of the truthful ones?" S. 15:6

And when We change a Verse [of the Qur'an, i.e. cancel (abrogate) its order] in place of another, and Allah knows the best of what He sends down, they (the disbelievers) say: "You (O Muhammad SAW) are but a Muftari! (forger, liar)." Nay, but most of them know not. S. 16:101 Hilali-Khan

But the misbelievers say: "Naught is this but a lie which he has forged, and others have helped him at it." In truth it is they who have put forward an iniquity and a falsehood. And they say: "Tales of the ancients, which he has caused to be written: and they are dictated before him morning and evening." Say: "The (Qur'an) was sent down by Him who knows the mystery (that is) in the heavens and the earth: verily He is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful." S. 25:4-6 Y. Ali

And if they call you a liar, truly apostles before you were called liars, and to Allah are all affairs returned. S. 35:4 Shakir

But of course, the Muslims will merely dismiss these as the false assertions and allegations of the unbelievers, an argument which merely exposes the inconsistency of Muslim polemics. After all, they are the ones appealing to the statements of the disbelievers to prove that Muhammad was a trustworthy person. But if their testimony is reliable enough to support Muhammad’s integrity then the unbelievers are also a good enough source to call his character into question. It is apparent that the Muslims want to have their cake and eat it too.

Muslims may contend that the Quran says that the disbelievers said the same thing about the other messengers and prophets which neither Jews nor Christians would accept. This argument is irrelevant for at least two reasons: First, God provided supernatural verification that these prophets and messengers were speaking on his behalf, showing that the claims of the disbelievers were false. Muhammad, on the other hand, failed to provide any supernatural confirmation that he was speaking on behalf of God. Secondly, the issue here is not whether what the unbelievers said was correct, but whether the Muslim assertion that even the disbelievers praised Muhammad’s honesty is true. As the Quran testifies, their comments were anything but flattering to Muhammad.

More importantly, the Islamic reports provide ample evidence that Muhammad was far from being completely trustworthy and reliable. He wasn’t the beacon of virtue and honesty that Muslims make him out to be.

For instance, Muhammad would lie, and permitted his followers to lie, if it assisted in attaining a specific objective:

Narrated Jabir bin 'Abdullah:
Allah's Apostle said, "Who is willing to kill Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf who has hurt Allah and His Apostle?" Thereupon Muhammad bin Maslama got up saying, "O Allah's Apostle! Would you like that I kill him?" The Prophet said, "Yes," Muhammad bin Maslama said, "Then allow me to say a (false) thing (i.e. to deceive Kab)." The Prophet said, "You may say it." … So Muhammad bin Maslama went in together with two men, and said to them, "When Ka'b comes, I will touch his hair and smell it, and when you see that I have got hold of his head, strip him. I will let you smell his head." Kab bin Al-Ashraf came down to them wrapped in his clothes, and diffusing perfume. Muhammad bin Maslama said, "I have never smelt a better scent than this." Ka'b replied. "I have got the best ‘Arab women who know how to use the high class of perfume." Muhammad bin Maslama requested Ka'b, "Will you allow me to smell your head?" Ka’b said, "Yes." Muhammad smelt it and made his companions smell it as well. Then he requested Ka'b again, "Will you let me (smell your head)?" Ka'b said, "Yes." When Muhammad got a strong hold of him, he said (to his companions), "Get at him!" So they killed him and went to the Prophet and informed him. (Abu Rafi) was killed after Ka'b bin Al-Ashraf." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 5, Book 59, Number 369)


When Kaybar[sic] had been conquered al-Hajjaj b. ‘Ilat al-Sulami of the clan al-Bahz said to the apostle, ‘I have money with my wife Umm Shayba d. Abu Talha–when they lived together he had a son called Mur‘id by her– and money scattered among the Meccan merchants, so give me permission to go and get it.’ Having got his permission he said, ‘I must tell lies.’ The Apostle said, ‘TELL THEM.’ Al-Hajjaj, ‘When I came to Mecca, I found in the pass of al-Bayda some men of Quraysh trying to get news and asking how the apostle fared because they had heard that he had gone to Khaybar. They knew that it was the principal town of Hijaz in fertility, fortifications, and population, and they were searching for news and interrogating passing riders. They did not know that I was a Muslim and when they saw me they said, "It is al-Hajjaj b. ‘Ilat. He is sure to have news. Tell us, O Abu Muhammad, for we have heard that the highwayman has gone to Khaybar which is the town of the Jews and the garden of the Hijaz." I said, "I have heard that and I have some news that will please you." They came up eagerly on either side of my camel, saying, "Out with, Hajjaj!" I said, "He has suffered a defeat such as you have never heard of and his companions have been slaughtered; you have never heard the like, and Muhammad has been captured." The men of Khaybar said, "We will not kill him until we send him to Mecca abd let them kill him among themselves in revenge for their men whom he has killed." They got up and shouted in Mecca, "Here’s news for you! You have only to wait for this fellow Muhammad to be sent to you to be killed in your midst." I said, "Help me collect my money in Mecca and to get in the money owed to me, for I want to go to Khaybar to get hold of the fugitives from Muhammad and his companions before the merchants get there". They got up and collected my money for me quicker than I could have supposed possible. I went to my wife and asked her for the money which she had by her, telling her that I should probably go to Khaybar and seize the opportunity to buy before the merchants got there first. When ‘Abbas heard the news and heard about me he came and stood at my side as I was in one of the merchants’ tents, asking about the news which I had brought. I asked him if he could keep a secret if I entrusted it to him. He said he could, and I said, "Then wait until I can meet you privately, for I am collecting my money as you see me, so leave (T. and he left me) until I have finished"; and so, when I had collected everything I had in Mecca and decided to leave, I met ‘Abbas and said, "Keep my story secret for three nights, then say what you will for I am afraid of being pursued." When he said that he would, I said, "I left your brother’s son married to the daughter of their king, meaning Safiya, and Khaybar has been conquered and all that is in it removed and become the property of Muhammad and his companions." He said, "What are you saying, Hajjaj?" I said, "Yes, by Allah, but keep my secret. I have become a Muslim and have come only to get my money fearing that I may be deprived of it. When three nights have passed publish the news as you will." When the third day came ‘Abbas put on a robe of his and scented himself and took his stick, and went to Ka‘ba and went round it. When the people saw him they said, "O Abu’l-Fadl, this is indeed steadfastness in a great misfortune!" He answered, "By no means, by Allah by whom you swear, Muhammad has conquered Khaybar and was left married to the daughter of their king. He has seized all that they possess and it is now his property and the property of his companions." They asked, "Who brought you this news?" He said, "the man who brought you your news. He came in to you as a Muslim and has taken his money and gone off to join Muhammad and his companions and to be with him." They said, "O men of Allah, the enemy of Allah has escaped. Had we known we would have dealt with him." Almost at once the true news reached them.’ (The Life of Muhammad: A Translation of Ibn Ishaq’s Sirat Rasul Allah, with introduction and notes by Alfred Guillaume [Oxford University Press, Karachi, Tenth impression 1995], pp. 519-520; capital and underline emphasis ours)

Muhammad also had no problems breaking his oaths:

Narrated Zahdam:

We were in the company of Abu Musa Al-Ash'ari and there were friendly relations between us and this tribe of Jarm. Abu Musa was presented with a dish containing chicken. Among the people there was sitting a red-faced man who did not come near the food. Abu Musa said (to him), "Come on (and eat), for I have seen Allah's Apostle eating of it (i.e. chicken)." He said, "I have seen it eating something (dirty) and since then I have disliked it, and have taken an oath that I shall not eat it." Abu Musa said, "Come on, I will tell you (or narrate to you). Once I went to Allah’s Apostle with a group of Al-Ash'ariyin, and met him while he was angry, distributing some camels of Rakat. We asked for mounts but he took an oath that he would not give us any mounts, and added, ‘I have nothing to mount you on.’ In the meantime some camels of booty were brought to Allah's Apostle and he asked twice, ‘Where are Al-Ash'ariyin?" So he gave us five white camels with big humps. We stayed for a short while (after we had covered a little distance), and then I said to my companions, ‘Allah's Apostle has forgotten his oath. By Allah, if we do not remind Allah's Apostle of his oath, we will never be successful.’ So we returned to the Prophet and said, ‘O Allah's Apostle! We asked you for mounts, but you took an oath that you would not give us any mounts; we think that you have forgotten your oath.’ He said, ‘It is Allah Who has given you mounts. By Allah, and Allah willing, if I take an oath and later find something else better than that, then I do what is better and expiate my oath.’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 7, Book 67, Number 427)

Muhammad even permitted his followers to break their word:

Narrated 'Abdur-Rahman bin Samura:
The Prophet said, "O 'Abdur-Rahman! Do not seek to be a ruler, for if you are given authority on your demand then you will be held responsible for it, but if you are given it without asking (for it), then you will be helped (by Allah) in it. If you ever take an oath to do something and later on you find that something else is better, then you should expiate your oath and do what is better." (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 9, Book 89, Number 260)

An individual who permits deception and breaks his/her oaths as s/he sees fit is anything but trustworthy. Such a person could never be trusted since one could never be certain whether s/he were actually speaking the truth or if s/he would keep his/her promises.

The foregoing statements provide conclusive evidence that Muhammad was anything but trustworthy.

Now while Muslims had/have the tendency of embellishing and forging stories to make Muhammad look better, they weren’t/aren’t in the habit of concocting tales that present their prophet in an unfavorable light. In fact, the reports which reflect poorly on Muhammad’s character have a greater chance of being true precisely because the Muslim tendency was/is to portray him in a more favorable manner while omitting any negative statements.

What makes this rather ironic is that if this Muslim assertion is true, that Muhammad was known for being trustworthy prior to his prophethood, this means that he was more honest before he became a "prophet" than afterwards! Recall the hadith that we quoted at the beginning of the article where the emperor Heraclius allegedly asked Abu Sufyan specific questions regarding whether Muhammad had ever lied or broke his word. Here is another version of this report:

"… Heraclius said, ‘Have you ever accused him of telling lies before his claim (to be a Prophet)?’
I replied, ‘No.’
Heraclius said, ‘Does he break his promises?’
I replied, ‘No. We are at truce with him but we do not know what he will do in it.’ I could not find opportunity to say anything against him except that… ‘I further asked whether he was ever accused of telling lies before he said what he said, and your reply was in the negative. So I wondered how a person who does not tell a lie about others could ever tell a lie about Allah.’" (Sahih al-Bukhari, Volume 1, Book 1, Number 6)

Yet the hadiths we just posted above say that Muhammad both lied and broke his word, the very things that Abu Sufyan said Muhammad did not do! Hence, instead of making Muhammad more righteous and honest Allah actually caused him to become wicked and less reliable! After all, since Muslims believe that the Quran is Allah’s word and since it was Allah who allowed Muhammad to lie and break his oaths:

O Prophet! Why bannest thou that which Allah hath made lawful for thee, seeking to please thy wives? And Allah is Forgiving, Merciful. Allah hath made lawful for you (Muslims) absolution from your oaths (of such a kind), and Allah is your Protector. He is the Knower, the Wise. S. 66:1-2 Pickthall


Let not the believers take disbelievers for their friends in preference to believers. Whoso doeth that hath no connection with Allah unless (it be) that ye but guard yourselves against them, taking (as it were) security. Allah biddeth you beware (only) of Himself. Unto Allah is the journeying. S. 3:28 Pickthall

Here is how the renowned Sunni exegete Ibn Kathir explained this verse:

The Prohibition of Supporting the Disbelievers

Allah prohibited His believing servants from becoming supporters of the disbelievers, or to take them as comrades with whom they develop friendships, rather than the believers. Allah warned against such behavior when He said…

<And whoever does that, will never be helped by Allah in any way> meaning, whoever commits this act that Allah has prohibited, then Allah will discard him. Similarly, Allah said…

<O you who believe! Take not My enemies and your enemies as friends, showing affection towards them>, until…

<And whosoever of you does that, then indeed he has gone astray from the straight path.> [60:1]. Allah said…

<O you who believe! Take not for friends disbelievers instead of believers. Do you wish to offer Allah a manifest proof against yourselves> [4:144], and…

<O you who believe! Take not the Jews and the Christians as friends, they are but friends of each other. And whoever befriends them, then surely, he is one of them.> [5:51].

Allah said, after mentioning the fact that the faithful believers gave their support to the faithful believers among the Muhajirin, Ansar and Bedouins…

<And those who disbelieve are allies of one another, (and) if you do not behave the same, there will be Fitnah and oppression on the earth, and a great mischief and corruption.> [8:73].

Allah said next…

<unless you indeed fear a danger from them> meaning, except those believers who in some areas or times fear for their safety from the disbelievers. In this case, such believers are allowed to show friendship to the disbelievers OUTWARDLY, but never inwardly. For instance, Al-Bukhari recorded that Abu Ad-Darda' said, "We smile in the face of some people ALTHOUGH OUR HEARTS CURSE THEM." Al-Bukhari said that Al-Hasan said, "The TUQYAH is allowed until the Day of Resurrection"... (Source; capital and underline emphasis ours)

This means that Allah was responsible in turning Muhammad into a dishonest person who could not be trusted!

Allah also brought Muhammad under the wrath and condemnation of Yahweh since broken vows are an abomination to the true God of the Bible:

"Moses said to the heads of the tribes of Israel: ‘This is what the LORD commands: When a man makes a vow to the LORD or takes an oath to obligate himself by a pledge, he must not break his word but must do everything he said.’" Numbers 30:1-2

"Do not be quick with your mouth, do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God. God is in heaven and you are on earth, so let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words. When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow. It is better not to vow than to make a vow and not fulfill it. Do not let your mouth lead you into sin. And do not protest to the temple messenger, ‘My vow was a mistake.’ Why should God be angry at what you say and destroy the work of your hands?" Ecclesiastes 5:2-6

Thus, it is patently clear from the foregoing Islamic data that the disbelievers’ statements in the Quran about Muhammad were correct since he lied and broke his promises. This, therefore, means that it is untenable that Muhammad was identified as Al-Ameen by his kinsmen, Muslims simply made this up; or if it was given to him then he failed to live up to this moniker, especially in the final years of his life.

There is one, however, who deserves this title since he is the very embodiment of truth, namely the Lord Jesus Christ, the spotless Lamb of the Father:

"What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God!" Mark 1:24

"Simon Peter answered him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that you are the Holy One of God.’" John 6:68-69

"He who speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false about him." John 7:18

"The one who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone, for I ALWAYS do what pleases him." John 8:29

"Jesus answered, ‘I AM the way and THE TRUTH and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’" John 14:6

"The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this." Acts 3:13-15

"Surely you heard of him and were taught in him in accordance with the truth that is in Jesus." Ephesians 4:21

"For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin." Hebrews 4:15

"Such a high priest meets our need—one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens." Hebrews 7:26

"How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!" Hebrews 9:14

"Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure… But you know that he appeared so that he might take away our sins. And in him is no sin… Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray. He who does what is right is righteous, just as he is righteous." 1 John 3:1-3, 5, 7

Further Reading

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