THERE ARE SO many untruths spreading through the Western world (and have been for centuries) about Prophet Muhammad. For those of us who love and deeply respect the Prophet, these egregious fallacies can be hard to fathom, much less refute. But we must answer the hard questions for those who are curious and have been wading through the mountain of ignorant cant about this noble man.
And recently, I had the honor to do just that for one brave person who chose to ask a Muslim –and not the number of unreliable sources out there– honest questions that were born out of research into Islam. I hope that sharing the following Q&A can help others clear up some of the misconceptions and malicious errors about the Prophet, his example, and the message of Islam.
Q: Is Muhammad seen as sinless and without reproach in Islam, the same way as Jesus is in the Bible?
A: Prophet Muhammad was “sinless,” as were all the messengers, including Prophet Jesus –peace and blessings be upon all of them. But like all the prophets, Muhammad was not without mistake because as they say, “To err is human,” and all the Prophets were human. Mistakes are made unintentionally –not the case with sins. There are instances in the Quran where Allah corrects Prophet Muhammad when he has done something incorrect, as can be seen specifically in Sûrat ʿAbasa, 80:1-16. 
Q: Why would Muhammad send followers to loot and raid caravans travelling through Madinah? OK, so it was an accepted practice at the time, but you kind of wish that your prophet could rise above stuff like stealing and killing.
A: This is one weapon Islamophobes use to paint Muhammad as a war monger. But they don’t seem ever to talk about the context: that would put a damper on the claims they are trying to make.
The polytheists of Makkah during the time of Revelation tortured, killed, starved out the Muslims. When the Muslims made their exodus from Makkah for Madinah, they had to do so in secret for fear of being murdered. And that meant they would escape only with what they could carry for a safer place to live and to worship God alone.
Once they had left, the Quraysh tribesmen (the polytheist kinsmen who were boycotting and torturing them) took possession of the Muslims’ homes in Makkah and all that was in them. The Muslims weren’t just out raiding the caravans; they went to the caravans of the Quraysh to gain back the necessities of life that had been confiscated from them. Also because of their tenuous financial situation as refugees in Madinah, this amounted to the means of survival for many of the Muslims who migrated to Madinah. 
Q: How do you know that Muhammad wasn’t simply an opportunist, using religion to further his social status, which was tenuous based on his deprived upbringing as an orphan?
A: In the early days of Revelation, the Quraysh tribesmen offered Muhammad a position as leader in Makkah and all that he desired –if he would only stop proclaiming his message from God.
One of the leaders of the Quraysh, named ʿUtbah, said to the Prophet,
O son of my brother, if by this affair you intend to acquire riches, honors, and dignity, we are willing to collect for you a fortune larger than is possessed by any one of us; we shall make you our chief and will do nothing without you. If you desire dominion, we shall make you our king; and if the demon which possesses you cannot be subdued, we will bring you doctors and give them riches until they cure you.” 
The Prophet refused this offer, reciting the first thirteen verses of Surat Fussilat. Which included the verse,
Indeed, those who believe and do righteous deeds – for them is a reward never ending. [Sûrat Fussilat, 41:8]
And then the Prophet said,
This is my reply to your proposition; now take what course you find best. 
If he had been an opportunist only out to gain worldly status, wouldn’t he have taken them up on that offer? Before he became a messenger of Allah he enjoyed a certain status in society as ward of his uncle –a man of high status in his tribe and in Makkah.
Furthermore, he was from a tribe that held much esteem. He married into wealth and was loved and very much respected by all of the Quraysh. They called him “THE trustworthy one,” ‘THE honest one.” Rather, the reversal of his status came as messenger, when he suffered mockery, losing status and wealth.
Q: Why did Allah, all of the sudden, give a revelation to Muhammad that ʿÂishah was innocent in the adultery scandal? It almost seems more like his own desire to find her innocent of this.
A: The fact was that in the pre-Islamic society, dating back to 6,000 BCE, even a rumor of marital infidelity could mean death for a woman. (Honor crimes are a pre-Islamic and un-Islamic custom.)
The rumors began because ʿÂishah was travelling with the Prophet and dropped something when she went to relieve herself. Upon realizing her loss, she went back to look for the precious item, while her caravan, not noticing at first that she was missing, moved on without her.
When one of their company went back to rescue her, he found her in despair for having been left –for it was super dangerous for a woman to travel in the open desert alone. The two traveled in silence back to Madinah. Seeing that she had been alone with a non-relative male escort, the leader of the hypocrites started to spread rumors of moral misconduct. 
In fact, the pronouncement of ʿÂishah’s innocence didn’t come right away. She said,
Rumors about this slander went on spreading in the city for about a month, which caused a great distress and anguish to the Holy Prophet. I cried due to helplessness and my parents were sick with mental agony. 
There was much more turmoil and heartache for all involved than some histories will have you think.
The Prophet said to her:
ʿÂishah, I have heard this about you. If you are innocent, I expect that Allah will declare your innocence. But if you have committed the sin, you should offer repentance, and ask for Allah’s forgiveness; when a servant (of Allah) confesses his guilt and repents, Allah forgives him. (Bukhâri)
At long last, Allah revealed (Sûrat Al-Nûr, 24: 11-21) that blaming a chaste women of adultery is a grave offense. That you must have four witnesses of the actual act to even accuse a woman of zina. This was a huge victory for women who had previously (pre-Islam) lost their lives to hearsay and rumors.
Q: Why did the revelations from Allah grow more violent after Prophet Muhammad moved to Madinah, which is when he started sending out his followers to raid the caravans, and after which he had to fight the pagan Makkans?
A: For a period of 13 years, the Muslims were not even allowed to lift their hands to defend themselves against the polytheists of their Quraysh fellow tribesmen, who had spared no mental and physical abuse against them. When they emigrated for a safer place to live, the Quraysh still pursued them and then the time came to defend themselves.
Significantly, the Prophet was sent as more than a deliverer of God’s message. He was also sent as a statesman. Does any state in the history of mankind accept being attacked mercilessly without some kind of defense program?
No, never. They have every right to defend themselves. And Allah revealed to them that the time had come to fight those who continued to attack them (Surat Al-Hajj, 22:39). Even though their Quraysh relatives outnumbered them and had much more in terms of wealth and weaponry in the early years, there came a time when the Muslims had to declare a defense program. The Quraysh would never have let up trying to wipe them out if they had not taken up self-defense. The Muslim rejection of idolatrous worship and pilgrimage was distinctly bad for business in their native Makkah.
After becoming victorious over the Quraysh, the Muslims returned to enter Makkah with a large army, whereupon Muhammad asked the Quraysh idolaters,
O Quraysh, what do you think I am about to do with you? They replied, “We hope for the best. You are a noble brother, son of a noble brother.” The Prophet said in reply, “I say to you what Yusuf (Prophet Joseph) said to his brothers: Have no fear this day (Sûrat Yûsuf, 12:92); go your way for you are all free.” 
After years of suffering at the hands of the Quraysh relatives and fighting them in battle to defend themselves, once they gained the upper hand, Prophet Muhammad brought about a peaceful and forgiving resolution. This has never happened in the history of man before or since. The Quraysh fellow tribesmen were shocked by this forgiveness –since the cycle of retaliation had been their tribal heritage– and most of them became Muslim.
Q: How can you know that Muhammad’s goal was not just to manipulate beliefs and his revelations to suit his own will and his own desires?
A: I am not sure there is even one revelation that benefited him personally –though we know that he was personally pleased in some cases, but not in others. He declared that no Arab has superiority over any non-Arab. He said that the wealthy have a duty to help the poor. He taught that women are human beings and not to be treated harshly or like chattel. If he had been out to benefit himself, wouldn’t he have declared the opposite of all of this –being an Arab, a person of wealth (before he preached the message of Allah), and a man.
He was even disallowed by the Revelation from receiving charity for himself or his family, even though he lived a very meager life, eating little (typically dates and water) –when he was not fasting for days at a time, giving most of what he owned away in charity, living in very tight quarters (after he had left his home in Makkah).
He suffered ridicule, the constant threat of murder, was called a madman, cursed, had garbage thrown on him. But still he was patient and kind. Even when he died, it was with very little in his possession. He was not a man interested in worldly gain or even his own desires. He was not even attentive to his own comfort. So I really don’t know how he benefited other than in spreading the message to mankind that God is one and in establishing social justice.
 Safiur Rahman Mubarakpuri, The Sealed Nectar
 Ibn Khatheer, Stories of the Prophets