Why did the Prophet Muhammad’s companions believe in him?
A Muslim asked: “Since you said Islam is false. What’s your best explanation to why the companions of Prophet Muhammad ﷺ accepted him to be a prophet…
As you know, and even the Quran makes it quite clear, that almost all Meccans, from the elite, rich, politicians to the poor and slaves were apparently skeptical of his ﷺ claims and asked him for evidence OR were fearful of the dreadful consequences of accepting Islam. Also keep in mind how regressive and tribalistic 7th century Bedouins were. There were no freedom of this-and-that like what is there in the west. Accepting Islam was not just abandoning the dominant culture of the Arabs which would make them a fringe minority of outcasts but also regarded as treason against the religion of their ancestors for which they face any form of persecution.”
My response: Imagine you live in an age of superstition, living in the middle of a desert. ..
An age of gods and goddesses. An age where people can cast magic spells to break up husband and wife, jinns inhabit animals and humans, and evil eye is a real thing. Where fortune tellers and kahins are consulted for advice. Where lots are divinated to decide on what to do and omens are seen in the direction birds fly. In an age where people believed in monsters and demons and mythical creatures like the Daabaa and Gog and Magog.
In this age people also believed in prophets who spoke to God. The Jews had their prophets and the Christians theirs.
Not much about how the world really worked was understood at this time. Cosmology was not clear. Many ancient cultures believed in seven heavens, by which they meant Mercury, Mars, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, the Sun and Earth/Moon. They actually thought there were livable worlds up there just like Earth. Muhammad even had a special “fear prayer” for the eclipse to be removed even though the eclipse comes like clockwork on a particular schedule. It does not stop because of praying.
Most of the world believed the Earth was flat. We have the Syriac Alexander Romance written at the time of Muhammad where where he travelled to the edges of the Earth. People thought the Sun went around the Earth and questioning this idea was heresy punishable by death even up to Copernicus time in the 1500s.
Humans did not understand about germs. There’s a hadith saying germs come from the sins of the Jews. People did not understand genetics. Muhammad said the child would look like whoever’s liquid came first. The Quran states we come from a clot of blood (75:38). It completely missed the female egg. The female egg was not known about until much later.
People did not realize the relative size of the planets, sun, and moon. We have references to poetry from Pre-Islamic Arabia quoting the sun going into a muddy pool of water. Everything was a mystery to them. The Bible spoke of how in the beginning there was two waters, the water above and the water below. Allah’s throne was also on the water. Most cultures believed the sky was raised, the heavens and earth were joined and then God split them. It was an age of ignorance.
It was also a mythical time. Nobody realized that humans, birds, fish, reptiles, and mammals all evolved from earlier life forms not created fully formed. That over time gradual changes and isolation lead to new species. Instead they assumed there was a primordial man and woman. Seems logical if you’re a kid or an ancient human who didn’t know better!
People thought breastfeeding affected children’s blood, and so Muhammad forbade marriages to foster-siblings (Quran 4:23). Menstrual blood was seen as “impurity” and women asked to stay away from certain deeds and acts. (Quran 2:222)
People thought there was good blood and bad blood, so they did cupping. (Tirmidhi and others)
In this age, a man claiming to be a prophet was not surprising. It fit right in!
He could make wild claims like “I spoke to jinns last night” (Surah Jinn) and “I saw the hole of Gog and Magog open up! Beware oh Arabs!” (Saheeh Bukhari 3598) and scare his people.
Like all great cult leaders, Muhammad had some lovable characteristics. He had a way with people. He had a natural charisma. And he knew who to ally himself with and he was willing to sacrifice his followers for his cause.
In the documentary “The End Of The World Cult (Documentary) — Real Stories” on YouTube the false messiah Michael slept with his own son’s wife and yet his son still believed in him as a prophet. He promised the end of the world coming and it didn’t, yet many still believed in him. He had people leave the cult and take their children away, yet they came back wanting to be with “The Messiah”, choosing him over their own parents. This is human nature. People are not rational. They will believe in the most absurd things even when they see contradictory evidence in front of their own eyes. It’s sad but true. It took me 15 years to see through Islam, but once the evidence came to me, I had to accept it was not true.
And then there are those who became Muslim because the tides turned. ‘Amr ibn al-’As, Uthman ibn Talhah, and Khalid bin Walid who were the last to convert before the fath-ul-Makkah (Conquering of Makkah). That there were huge tides of apostasy that had to be quelled with war at the death of Muhammad shows that many of the tribes who accepted Islam after the victory did so because they wanted to be on the winning side.
There’s also a survivorship bias. Just because Muhammad’s religion survived until today does not make it right. It has several characteristics that lead to its rise. It is imperialistic, evangelical, and it has a doctrine of violent jihad, and until now people are killed for apostasy in certain parts of the world.
Like natural selection applies to genes being passed on, it also applies to religions being passed on. The most aggressive viruses find multiple ways to spread and survive, and this is what Islam has done.