What if a man you knew began telling people that God was routinely speaking to him and only him – and that the “revelations” he claimed to be receiving were mostly about him and his relative importance to all other people? Say, for example, that this self-proclaimed prophet insisted that God had declared him to be the ‘excellent pattern of conduct’ for mankind (Quran 33:21) and that others were, therefore, to accord him with special privilege, unwavering obedience (Quran 4:80) , wealth and earthly desires, including all of the slaves and women than his lust could handle.
Such figures still arise from time to time. Some of the more dynamic manage to develop a small group of followers so taken with their leader’s self-assurance that they willingly offer their own children to him for “marriage” and are prepared to kill on his behalf.
Would it really validate the message of any such cult leader if his followers did successfully kill and seize the property of anyone who dared disagree? What if they gradually expanded their power and numbers in such fashion that eventually they were recognized as a major world religion? Would that make the cult leader’s claims about himself true? Would it really change the fact that what they believe ultimately sprang from the imagination of a narcissist?
In 610, an Arab salesman with a charismatic personality attracted a small cult of credulous fanatics by claiming to be a prophet. Though his “revelations” were self-referential and occasionally contradicting, he was successful in manipulating his followers with promises of heavenly reward and threat of divine wrath. The god heard only by him told them to lie and steal for him, to give their children to him for sexual pleasure and, eventually, to gruesomely murder his detractors…
There are two ways to approach a study of Muhammad. One is with reverence. The other is with skepticism. Thinking persons choose the latter. They are not influenced by the number of Muslim believers in the world today or by their force of belief because these are meaningless for determining the truth. They care only about fact.