The great Orientalist David S. Margoliouth’s very balanced 1905 biography of Islam’s prophet recognized Muhammad as “ . . . a great man, who solved a political problem of appalling difficulty — the construction of a state and empire out of the Arab tribes.” Margoliouth recounted this accomplishment without “apology” or “indictment,” summarizing faithfully the images of Muhammad that emerge in the earliest and most authoritative pious Muslim biography of the Muslim prophet by Ibn Ishaq (d. 761/767), as follows:
In order to gain his ends he recoils from no expedient, and he approves of similar unscrupulousness on the part of his adherents, when exercised in his interest. He profits to the utmost from the chivalry of the Meccans, but rarely requites it with the like. He organizes assassinations and wholesale massacres.
His career as tyrant of Medina is that of a robber chief, whose political economy consists in securing and dividing plunder . . . He is himself an unbridled libertine and encourages the same passion in his followers. For whatever he does he is prepared to plead the express authorization of the deity. It is, however, impossible to find any doctrine which he is not prepared to abandon in order to secure a political end…This is a disagreeable picture for the founder of a religion, and it cannot be pleaded that it is a picture drawn by an enemy…
The entire piece underscores the real, unsentimental and unspun story of Islam - that it is a totalitarian political system in religious clothing and its founder cynically preached peace only as long as it took him to gather enough followers to declare war.
The modern Muslim scholar Ali Dashti’s biography of Muhammad, 23 Years: A Study of the Prophetic Career of Mohammad, has also chronicled Muhammad’s “changed course” at Medina, where the Muslim prophet begins to “issue orders for war” in multiple and repeated Koranic revelations (Sura [chapter] 9 being composed almost entirely of such war proclamations — permanent injunctions against pagans, Jews, and Christians). Prior to describing some of the numerous assassinations Muhammad ordered, Ali Dashti observes
…Islam was gradually transformed from a purely spiritual mission into a militant and punitive organization whose progress depended on booty from raids and [tax] revenue….The Prophet’s steps in the decade after the hejra [emigration from Mecca to Medina] were directed to the end of establishing and consolidating a religion-based state. Some of the deeds done on his command [were] killings of prisoners and political assassinations…
and finally makes the point:
If we are silent and ignore the reality of Muhammad’s “beautiful example of conduct,” in lieu of defiantly upholding the irrefragable evidence briefly adduced herein, we are tacitly condemning Professor Margoliouth, posthumously, and all who presently understand and expound the proven wisdom of his judgments, and submissively acquiescing to the establishment of universal Islamic blasphemy law.