clw_uk wrote:The problem with moral relativism of this sort is that usually its only applied to negative judgments. I rarely hear people say the same about positive judgements, despite that being a logical extension of the argument. If I cannot judge Muhammad as being good or bad for his actions as they are dependent on the time, then I cannot do the same with Buddha and so I cannot attribute to him the many noble qualities that I do. Another extension would be the inability to judge Hitler, because anti-semitism was rife at the time and "that was the culture and world he grew up in".
I guess it comes down to if you are a moral relativist or not. Do you believe certain actions are always immoral, or productive of bad kamma, or not?
The fact that moral relativism is applied mostly to negative judgement says nothing about the validity of moral relativism. It is more likely that moral issues are raised when a particular action is perceived "negative" as we have the general tendency to take what is right for granted. In this particular thread, it is used to counteract what is perceived as "unfair" moral judgement and it has a mitigating effect and it makes sense. We all live in space and time and we are social animals, so what we perceive as normal or acceptable behavior is largely driven by the common practices in the age we happen to experience. Overlooking it is as bad as to completely relying on it what we make a moral judgement in my opinion.
In my opinion, a major weakness in the way you chose to approach this topic, at least from an intellectual point of view, is that you decided to use a very personal criteria to judge a historical figure who had a great impact on humanity (great impact does not mean good or bad). Words such as "respect" and "pedophile" did not sound (at least to me) as a serious and fruitful approach. First, it can lead to wrong conclusions as it relied on one isolated action, and second, regardless of its truth it does not necessarily answer whether Muhammad is worthy of respect. Imagine someone taking one aspect of you, and then using it to determine how respectable you are, do you think he should be taken seriously?
More generally, i think we live in an age where we are becoming increasingly opinionated. Seeking the truth becomes secondary.
May i introduce an alternative approach? Muhammad has been successful in many ways and failed in many other. He unified the Arabs and gave them purpose. He introduced a new morality and a new way of life. We always hear about what is wrong with Islam which is mostly valid and true, but i can tell you with a great deal of certainty that Islam improved many people's lives and was a cause of a lot of positive behavior.
On the other hand, he could have done much better. Right after his death, his closest companions started to fight among themselves. Just imagine, right after the Buddha's death, that Anada, Sariputta, Moggallana and other disciples started to fight, would this make him a successful teacher? His realistic and pragmatic approach has backfired regardless of his intentions. But judging his success/failure without taking into consideration the temperament of his people, the historical context and the tribal rift and rivalry between his own tribe (Banu Hashim) and their distant cousins (Banu Umayya) which preceded Islam and the role it played in shaping what Islam turned out to be would be unfair.
Assuming the story is true (in terms of the young age) does that make Muhammad's actions good or not, in your opinion?
I think his marriage of Aisha was bad, but for a totally different reasons than the ones you are emphasizing. After his death, she waged a war against his cousin (Ali bin Abi Taleb) which was one of the main contributing factors of the major rift between Sunni and Shiaa Muslims, and might serve as another reminder that the focus on her age when he married her, in the wider scheme, is pretty pity concern.
And the Blessed One addressed the bhikkhus, saying: "Behold now, bhikkhus, I exhort you: All compounded things are subject to vanish. Strive with earnestness!"
This was the last word of the Tathagata.