Has a major branch of history been determined by one man's bout with epilepsy? I think so!

Epilepsy Toronto has, on its web page, a list of famous people who have had epilepsy. The idea of the list is that epilepsy doesn't need to stand in the way of achievement. On that list - along with such luminaries as Fyodor Dostoevsky, Joan of Arc, Napoleon and Newton - was Muhammad. Well, you guessed it . . . the incendiary email this organization received from indignant Muslims, prompted them to quickly remove Muhammad from its on-line list. By now, we all know that nothing gets results like Muslim threats.

This article reminded me of the connection between epilepsy and the "God Module". If you're not familiar with the God Module or "God Spot", here's a quick summary . . . It was discovered when scientists explored the association between epilepsy and intense spiritual experiences. It seems that some forms of epilepsy create electrical storms in the brain that stimulates an adjacent area (now identified as the God Module). Many of these epileptics are hyper-religious.

Anyway, I did a Google search for "Muhammad and epilepsy" and hit pay-dirt. There appears to be a strong correlation between the symptoms of epilepsy and the witness descriptions of Muhammad's condition while in his "trances". Epilepsy (the "sacred disease", also known as the "falling sickness") is what the ancients thought were demon possessions. Muhammad was known to have had epileptic symptoms from at least the age of 5. His guardians were (allegedly) afraid he was demon possessed and pawned him off on other relatives.

Epilepsy would explain Muhammad's visions and preoccupation with spirituality and his solitary retreats to the mountains for contemplative meditation. Many epileptics describe the spiritual sensations surrounding seizures as so exquisite that they actually look forward to these fits. Fyodor Dostoevsky claimed that he would not trade 10 years of life for a single epilepsy-induced spiritual experience.

Ignorant and superstitious people, especially in Muhammad's day, were easily impressed by these seizures. They seemed real, because they were. However, they weren't demon possessions or contact with God; they were epileptic fits. These fits are reported to have scared Muhammad until his wife (the first, ever, Muslim) convinced him that they were divine communiqués. That's right . . . Muhammad's wife was the first Muslim - Muhammad was the second to believe.

There is only anecdotal evidence that Muhammad was an epileptic. It's just a theory. But, due to the preponderance of evidence, many historians and researchers believe it. The first to suggest it was the Greek monk, Theophanes. Theophanes (752-817) wrote, in his "Chronography", that Muhammad suffered from epilepsy. In 1869, Sir William Muir, made the same connection in his book, "The Life of Mahomet". More recently, Clifford Pickover writes:
Dostoevsky, another famous epileptic whose works are filled with ecstatic visions of universal love (and terrible nightmares of uncanny fear and radical evil), thought it was obvious that Mohammad's visions of God were triggered by epilepsy. "Mohammad assures us in this Koran that he had seen Paradise," Dostoevsky notes. "He did not lie. He had indeed been in Paradise - during an attack of epilepsy, from which he suffered, as I do."
I guess it takes one to know one.

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Replies to This Discussion

You must have gotten him when he was just a pap.
Is that they hate dogs or they ate dogs... Maybe they just buried their heads in the sands of time.

Running out of word play here . . .
Hi Ricky,

Muhammad and Islam didn't rear their ugly heads until 6 centuries after Jesus. It's interesting to note how Islam followed the same downhill slope as Christianity.

But the uphills were completely different. Christianity grew slowly over 3 centuries until Emperor Constantine made the Roman Catholic Church the official state religion of the Roman Empire. That was the year after the Council of Nicea, convened in 325 A.D.

As the power of the church grew, their worldview became the only permissible one. Curiosity was stifled. Innovation was punished. Detractors were executed as heretics.

Muhammad, of course, established Islam and the beginning of the Arab Empire in his own lifetime. Christendom slid into the Dark Ages as the Arabs spread their Muslim Empire. They picked up knowledge from all over their empire and even developed their own knowledge. But then something happened that signaled the end of Arab greatness and the beginning of their own Dark Ages (which still persists).

That something was the growing influence of Islam. There was a pivotal figure who advanced this influence more than anybody else. He is the one we can thank (or curse) for the rise of Islam and the decline of the Arab empire. His name is al-Ghazzali.

Many historians, Muslim or not, believe al-Ghazzali is the most influential Muslim since the Prophet Muhammad. He single-handedly shifted early Arab ideals away from Greek philosophy to orthodox Islam. Despite being a scientist, philosopher and innovator himself, Ghazzali's prolific and influential writings heralded the end of 3 centuries of Arab advancements in science, philosophy and innovation and the beginning of Islam's permanent intellectual stagnation.

But I think that would have happened anyway. Islam is a fundamentalist religion. No two ways about that. There's simply no wiggle room for a moderate interpretation. But Al-Ghazzali gets the credit for putting Islam front and center in Arab hearts and minds.

Both Christendom and the Umma of Islam slid into Dark Ages as the power of their religions increased. Over the centuries, Christianity has enjoyed many reforms: its wings have been clipped. They no longer wield the power they once did. However, Islam has not enjoyed any such reforms. And because NO man has the authority to change Allah's word one iota, it's unlikely Islam will ever enjoy any reform.

Islam is a rabid dogma: unreformed and still in its dark ages.
Thank you for your reply. It's funny I have learned more in the last two years, these years coincide with convergence to a non-theist, I choose non-theist over atheist to quell constant arguments with all my idiot Christian relatives that insist atheist are Satan worshipers, than I had learned during my years as a Christian because my ears were plugged to the truth.
I have to admit a lot of my education comes from the internet, The History Channel and The Science Channel. I do know that CERN's Large Hadron Collider isn't going to bring earth to an end. I also know religion was created to control the masses and for the rich to get richer. As in the case of Islam and the Mulslims, If practically all you did from the time you could read was sit from sun up to sundown was rock back and forth and recite the Koran you'd be a flipping crazy fanatic too. But this is for another discussion topic so I will end it here. Thank you for letting me put in two cents
Hi Ricky,

Is that you in your avatar photo? I wonder because you say you've come to non-theism fairly recently. If so, I'd be fascinated to hear how you came to non-theism so (relatively) late in life.

If you'd like to discuss that, I'd suggest you put it in your blog, then let us know, here. That way we can keep topics on track. I'll certainly read your story when you finish it. :-)

If practically all you did from the time you could read was sit from sun up to sundown was rock back and forth and recite the Koran you'd be a flipping crazy fanatic too

This has always blown my mind also. What about Shakespeare, what about Galileo, what about the Punic Wars?

Hey, Muslim high school kid, do you think Richard III really killed his two nephews?

װצףע ڶڲڢڬک

(110th Sura, third verse.)
Doesn’t it piss you off that Muslims think they can suppress the truth with the threat of violence? Take the Danish cartoons, for instance, or the Salmon Rushdie affair.

Doesn’t it dawn on followers that the Ayatollah Khomeini was supposed to be a holy man and not a Mafia don issuing hit contracts on people who don’t agree with him?

Free, I’m surprised you omitted Julius Caesar. I remember a line from high school English class.

He doth have the falling sickness.

(Great pun from Cassius speaking of subservience) We all doth have the falling sickness.
Hi Richard,

This whole issue of (in)tolerance is a prime example of the abject incompatibility between Islam and the West. Muslims have completely inverted the idea of tolerance. At the heart of this is the Quran. The Muslim culture, because of the Quran, does not expect their men to control themselves. We need to guard against arousing their sexual urges and their emotions, lest we inadvertently cause them to rape or to resort to violence to vent outrage or hatred.

In the West, mature males are responsible for their actions. In Islam, YOU'RE responsible for the actions of (allegedly) mature males.

It's pathetic and loathsome.
By the way, unless you actually believe Allah has a great table with the "original" Quran on it, from which he doled out verses, to the angel Gabriel, to pass along to Muhammad, then I think we can agree that the Quran comes from quotes attributed to Muhammad and that Muhammad invented those quotes on his own (if the attributions are correct). We know that verses had a tendency to be revealed at propitious moments. Allah would condemn Muhammad's detractors immediately after Muhammad suffered their derision. Allah allowed Muhammad more than the standard 4 wives, just when he had become obsessed with yet another woman. Allah chastised Muhammad's wives after they ganged up on him.

So when I speak of the Quran, I'm really speaking of Muhammad. The Quran sprung from the mind of a man who raided caravans, sacked villages, had sex with a 9 or 10 year old girl, and converted pagans to Islam at the edge of his sword.
well, Mohammad lived 40 long years in Mecca before becoming a prophet. Those who hated him most could not establish any serious argument conserning his character. If epilepsy what made him what he was, there would be a previous history of similar attacks. Epilepsy does not just start at an advance age as 40. Actually, to every one in Mecca, Mohammad was a very stable, honest, modest, reliable guy. He, however, had developed a habit of solititude in a cave of a nearby mountain just out of Mecca. Perhaps it was there where he contemplated the great plan over a period of more than ten years. But why would he choose to do that and cause a great deal of pain to himself and his family in the following years? especially when he could have been what ever he wanted at that time coming from the elite family of Hashim (the rulers of Mecca and Abraham's descendants)? beats me. But the guy could have been strongly influenced by jews or christians.

There IS a previous history of attacks, dating back to when he was 5 years old . . . didn't you read the full post?




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