This last February 28th, the Dalai Lama was interacting with visitors at a public event in the temple which bears his name, found in Dharmashala, northern India, the town of his permanent exile from Tibet. Known as “His Holiness,” this 87-year-old monk is the leader of the Yellow Hat sect of Tibetan Buddhism and a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, and has become famous around the world for his gentle spirituality.
During this particular event, a young boy approached the Dalai Lama and asked if he could give him a hug. “His Holiness” invited the boy up on stage as the event was being filmed and pointed to his cheek, saying “First here,” indicating the boy was to kiss him. Continuing his interaction, the monk then pointed to his lips and said, “Then I think finally here also,” lifting the boy’s chin with his hand and placing a kiss on the boy’s lips. After a few seconds with their faces close together, the Dalai Lama sticks out his tongue and commands the child, “And suck my tongue.”
The video of this has gone viral on social media, with many decrying the religious leader’s behavior as “horrible,” “disgusting,” “pedophilic,” “child abuse,” “sexual exploitation of a minor,” and so on.
As blowback has increased significantly since the incident occurred, the office of the Dalai Lama issued an apology of sorts, saying that actions of “His Holiness” were misunderstood, that he often jokes with people in innocent ways, and that he is sorry to the boy and his family for any hurt his words may have caused. Indeed, he regrets what happened.
Of course, this regret and apology came some six weeks after the incident itself, and were apparently prompted by the severe negative publicity generated due to the viral video. Yet, the Dalai Lama’s supporters were quick to provide cover for their leader, pointing out that it is an old Tibetan custom, going back to the 9th C., for Tibetans to stick out the tongues when greeting one another. That may indeed be the case – I am no expert or judge on Tibetan customs – but greeting another with a protruding tongue is one thing; commanding the one being greeted to suck the other’s tongue an altogether different matter. On top of that, we see the power imbalance of a revered adult using his unchallengeable authority to manipulate a powerless child. These are not the actions of an innocent, responsible adult, no matter what his sycophants might say. The actions of “His Holiness” in this matter are decidedly unholy, and he should be held to account.
But the Dalai Lama is not the only major religious leader in the tongue-sucking business. As soon as I read of this story, my mind immediately went to early Islamic sources which portray Muhammad as one who sucked the tongues of little boys and invited them to suck his tongue as well.
Muhammad al-Bukhari is famous among Sunnis for his collection of Hadiths concerning the life and teachings of Islam’s prophet. It is the most revered of the Sahih Sittah, the six hadith collections considered authoritative by Sunnis. In addition to his major word, Bukhari collected another set of reports, entitled al-Adab al-Mufrad. Entry 1183 reads:
It is related that Abu Hurayra said, “I never see al-Hasan [Muhammad’s first grandson] without my eyes overflowing with tears. That is because the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, went out one day and he found me in the mosque. He took my hand and I went along with him. He did not speak to me until we reached the market of Banu Qaynuqa’. He walked around it and looked. Then he left and I left with him until we reached the mosque. He sat down and wrapped himself in his garment. Then he said, ‘Where is the little one? Call the little one to me.’ Hasan came running and jumped into his lap. Then he put his hand in his beard. Then the Prophet, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, opened his mouth and put his mouth in his mouth. Then he said, ‘O Allah, I love him, so love him and the one who loves him!’” (italics mine).
The Arabic of the italicized portion reads more literally “opened his mouth and entered his mouth into his mouth.” What makes most sense of this language is that the prophet inserted his tongue into the mouth of his young grandson. Muhammad ostensibly saw this as an act of love, as repulsive as that might seem to the average reader of any age (except for perhaps His Holiness the Dalai Lama). What other purpose could the Islamic prophet have in mind than for his grandson to suck his tongue after putting it in Hasan’s mouth?
But another hadith pictures Muhammad not only as enjoying having his tongue sucked; he also enjoyed sucking the tongues and lips of others. According to Musnad Ahmad 16245, one of Muhammad’s companions, Mu’awiya, reported:
I saw the prophet sucking on the tongue or the lips of Al-Hassan son of Ali [same grandson as above], may the prayers of Allah be upon him. For no tongue or lips that the prophet sucked on will be tormented (by hell fire).
This account leaves no doubt that Muslim tradition portrays Islam’s prophet as engaging in what today would be called child abuse or sexual harassment of a minor. Imagine if a video camera had captured what Mu’awiya testified that he had seen, and it had gone viral on the Internet, as surely it would. The same cries of moral revulsion and more would be aimed at Muhammad, for his behavior grossly exceeded the actions of the Dalai Lama. Public opinion of the Buddhist monk was filled with statements like: “sick old man;” “sexual assault of a minor;” “pedophilic actions;” “classic child grooming;” “perverted;” “menace to children;” “disgusting.” What would the unbiased viewer of the hypothetical video of Muhammad’s tongue-work with his young grandson conclude concerning the man Islam calls “the perfect human”, the man all humans are to emulate to their best ability?
One Twitter commenter, after seeing the footage concerning the Dalai Lama and his young admirer, wrote:
We’ve seen the video and we’re not buying any of it, sorry. If that was a “hug” then I’m a Leprechaun. I don’t think “His Holiness” is a title you can use any more either.
Another, who professed to have held the Buddhist leader in high esteem, confessed:
It’s not innocent or playful and it wasn’t a hug. It’s child abuse. You were one of the few leaders I trusted. Never again. My heart hurts.
Will Muslims flee the fold of Islam upon discovering that their revered prophet is portrayed in their own trusted sources as committing indecencies even worse than those of the Dalai Lama? Unfortunately, the answer is probably not. Human beings are capable of twisting reality into pretzels in order to continue to defend the indefensible, and to coddle our convictions despite hard, unrelenting truths.
Concerning these hadiths about Muhammad, his followers might say that, though unusual, these two accounts point only to the deep love the prophet had for his grandson. His behaviors with Hasan were intimate but innocent. Others will have to judge for themselves whether it is upright behavior for a grandfather to engage in what amounts to French kissing with his young grandson.
However, this was not a one-time behavior, nor was it limited to one person, according to Musnad Ahmad. We are given this theological justification for the prophet’s behavior: “For no tongue or lips that the prophet sucked on will be tormented (by hell fire).” So, if you are fortunate enough to have the prophet suck your tongue or lick your lips, you are guaranteed paradise! We don’t know how long the list is of those saved from hellfire by swapping spit with the Perfect Human, but one can hope that it was mercifully short.
Other Muslims have found creative, even sublime arguments to justify Muhammad’s reprehensible behavior. Remember, we are told, Muhammad and his followers lived in a hot, arid land. It was a common practice for parents, when their children were in the agony of thirst and there was no water to be found, to allow their children to suck on their tongues as a means to calm them down and ease their thirst. No contemporaneous evidence is supplied to support this claim. Should it have ever been the case, however, it would apply principally to infants. Muhammad’s generosities with his tongue were apparently not limited to infants.
Yet, thirst among the Muslims should not be a consideration, for according many Muslim accounts, Muhammad performed a grand assortment of miracles for his followers, providing them water in their times of need. Out of roughly ninety miracle narrations, this one is my favorite, found in Bukhari (4.56.776):
Narrated Salim bin Abi Aj-Jad: Jabir bin ‘Abdullah said. “The people became very thirsty on the day of Al-Hudaibiya (Treaty). A small pot containing some water was in front of the Prophet and when he had finished the ablution the people rushed towards him. He asked. ‘What is wrong with you?’ They replied. ‘We have no water either for performing ablution or for drinking except what is present in front of you.’ So he placed his hand in that pot and the water started flowing among his fingers like springs. We all drank and performed ablution (from it).” I asked Jabir. “How many were you?” he replied. “Even if we had been one-hundred-thousand it would have been sufficient for us but we were fifteen-hundred.”
When it comes to generating water, ten fingers beat one tongue every time. If Hassan, or any other believer, was desperately thirsty, the prophet could simply have streamed water from his fingers so they might drink to their hearts’ content. Thirst was apparently not the issue behind this tongue-in-mouth behavior.
Even harder to explain, on the thirst hypothesis, is why Muhammad would have been sucking the tongues and lips of others. Was he so dehydrated that he needed to extract fluids from others? Could he not have opened the spigots of his fingers to quench the burning in his throat. This “thirst theory” would turn Muhammad into a “water vampire” of sorts, preying on others to gather refreshment for himself. Certainly this is not the image Muslim defenders of Muhammad would like to paint before the world of their “excellent example” of human nature.
If common sense leads people from all walks of life to censure the Dalai Lama for proposing something reprehensible to an innocent child, shouldn’t that same common sense lead observers to censure Islam’s founder for his execrable behavior in this regard, and to seriously question Islam’s claim that Muhammad is the trustworthy divine messenger, whose every word is to be believed and whose every action is to be emulated.
I pray Muslims will wake up to their own “reliable” source materials, where their prophet ordered assassinations, parceled out sex slaves to his soldiers from captured girls, nursed grudges against those who laughed off his religious claims, kept slaves and concubines for his own pleasure, poisoned the minds and hearts of his followers against Jews and Christians, and deflowered his youngest of fourteen wives when she was just nine years old. May they read their own authoritative texts and thereby conclude concerning Muhammad and Islam, “He was the one leader I trusted. Never again. My heart hurts.”
There is one whom billions have found worthy of their trust and devotion. However, he is not found in Islam. One must look to the Book, to which the Qur’an alludes but which it never understands. May Muslims find the One about whom Moses and the prophets spoke, whose victory over sin and death many around the world have just celebrated! He alone is trustworthy and true.
Visit the personal blog of Mateen Elass: HERE.