Mohammedan (also spelled Muhammadan, Mahommedan, Mahomedan or Mahometan) is a Western term for a follower of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.[1] As an archaic English language term, it is used as both a noun and an adjective, meaning belonging or relating to, either Muhammad or the religion, doctrines, institutions and practices that he established.[2][3] The word was formerly common in western usage, but the terms Muslim and Islamic are more common today.



The OED cites 1663 as the first recorded usage of the English term, along with the older term Mahometan that dates back to at least 1529. The English term is derived from New Latin Muhammedanus, while Wyclif has Macamethe (c.1380).

In Christian Western Europe, down to the 13th century or so, there was a mistaken belief that Muhammad had either been a heretical Christian or that he was a god worshipped by Muslims.[4] Some works of Medieval European literature referred to Muslims as "pagans" or by sobriquets such as the paynim foe. Depictions, such as those in the Song of Roland, depict Muslims praying to a variety of "idols", including Apollo, Lucifer, Termagant,[5] and Mahound. When the Knights Templar were being tried for heresy, reference was often made to their worship of a demon Baphomet, which was notable, by implication, for its similarity to Muhammad's name when transliterated in to Latin, "Mahomet", that was used by contemporary Christian authors, given that Latin would be for another 500 years the language of scholarship and erudition for most of Europe.[4]

These and other variations on the theme were all set in the "temper of the times" of the Muslim-Christian conflict as Medieval Europe was becoming aware of its great enemy in the wake of the quickfire success of the Muslims through a series of conquests shortly after the fall of the Western Roman Empire, as well as the lack of real information in the West of the mysterious east.[6]

Current usage

The term has been largely superseded by Muslim, Moslem or Islamic, but was commonly used only in Western literature until at least the mid-1960s. (See for instance the second edition of A Dictionary of Modern English Usage by HW Fowler, revised by Ernest Gowers (Oxford, 1965)). Muslim is more commonly used today than Moslem, and the term Mohammedan is widely considered archaic or in some cases even offensive.[7]

Other uses

al-Muḥammadīya (‘Muhammadians’) are members of sects regarded as heretical by mainstream Islam (though in Indonesia, Muhammadiyah is the name of an orthodox reforming movement, which has adapted Western institutions, e.g. Boy Scouts, to Muslim ends).[8]


Many Muslims have objected to the term,[9] saying that the term was not used by Muhammad himself or his earlier followers, and that the religion teaches worshiping Allah and not Muhammad. It is often held and argued[10][11] by non-Muslims that Allah was an alter-ego of convenience for Muhammad, which he used to satisfy his lust for wealth, women, and power, as evidenced by the divine sanctions for Muhammad's taking his adopted son's wife (in direct contradiction to his earlier laws), his taking of a minimum of eleven wives (directly breaking the law that the Koran says Allah revealed for the entire community which established a maximum of four wives),[12] a total of one-eleventh of the Koran being spent discussing Muhammad's sex life, wives, and domestic disputes,[13] and the doctrine of abrogation, or naskh, by which polar-opposite contradictory verses are reconciled in traditional Islamic thought (by establishing a chronology, and having later verses cancel earlier ones)[14][15] thus making the worship of Allah very much the worship of Muhammad, or "Muhammadanism".[16]

However, Muslims insist that "Mohammedan" is a misnomer. Muslims believe that "Islam" is the divinely-verbalised name of the final form of Allah's commandments (lit. "submission to [Allah's] will") revealed through a series of Prophets of Islam, which are generally the same as the Judaeo-Christian ones, except for some genealogical differences (i.e. Jesus is said in the Koran to be the son of Miriam, sister of Aaron and Moses, daughter of Imran [Eng. Amram ], thus making Jesus a contemporary of Moses), and the addition of a few prophets (i.e. Alexander the Great and/or Cyrus the Great are considered Prophets of Islam and are spoken of in the Koran, using legendary stories and apocryphal material from the genre of Alexander romance,[17] called Dhul Qarnayn[18] and/or al-Khidr - see Alexander the Great in the Qur'an and Cyrus the Great in the Qur'an). Muslims claim that all of the Judaeo-Christian prophets preached Islam - including Moses and Jesus - and none were Jews or Christians, and all denounced Judaism and Christianity as being corruptions of Islam, the religion Muslims claim they preached, which they also hold to be the primordial religion, of which all others are corruptions.[19] The historical evidence for this - the preaching of anything resembling Islam by the Biblical prophets - is completely absent, and in all cases contradictory: it is established by all reliable sources and non-Islamic scholarship that Jesus was a Torah-observant Jew, that Ezra was a Jewish priest and scribe, and that Alexander and Cyrus the Great were both Pagans, although Cyrus the Great was instrumental in ending the Jewish exile.

See also


  1. ^ JOHN BOWKER. "Muhammadans." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997. 21 Jun. 2010 <>.
  2. ^ -Ologies & -Isms. Copyright 2008 The Gale Group, Inc.
  3. ^ Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, edited by Noah Porter, published by G & C. Merriam Co., 1913
  4. ^ a b Kenneth Meyer Setton (July 1, 1992). "Western Hostility to Islam and Prophecies of Turkish Doom". DIANE Publishing. ISBN 0-87169-201-5. pg 4-15 - "Some Europeans believed that Moslems worshipped Mohammed as a god,[...]" (4)
  5. ^ Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, "Termagant
  6. ^ Watt, Montgomery,Muhammad: Prophet and Statesman. Oxford University Press, 1961. fromm pg. 229
  7. ^ The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition (2000) annotates the term as offensive. The OED has "its use is now widely seen as depreciatory or offensive", referring to English Today no. 39 (1992): "The term Mohammedan [...] is considered offensive or pejorative to most Muslims since it makes human beings central in their religion, a position which only Allah may occupy". Other dictionaries, such as Merriam-Webster, do not label the term as offensive.
  8. ^ JOHN BOWKER. "Muhammadans." The Concise Oxford Dictionary of World Religions. 1997. 21 Jun. 2010 <>.
  9. ^ see e.g. Mohammedanism a Misnomer, by R. Bosworth Smith, Paul Tice; Definition of Mohammedanism, Farlex Encyclopedia; What does Islam mean?, Islamic Bulletin
  10. ^ Ibn Warraq (2003). Why I Am Not a Muslim. Prometheus Books. pp. 428. ISBN 978-1591020110. 
  11. ^ Spencer, Robert (2007). The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. pp. 224. ISBN 978-1596985285. 
  12. ^ Spencer, Robert (2007). The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. pp. 224. ISBN 978-1596985285. 
  13. ^ Spencer, Robert (2007). The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion. Washington, DC: Regnery Publishing. pp. 224. ISBN 978-1596985285. 
  14. ^ Keller (translator), al-Misri and Nuh Ha Mim (1997). Umdat al-Salik: Reliance of the Traveller and Tools of the Worshipper: the Classic Manual of Islamic Sacred Law. Beltsville, Maryland: Amana Publications. pp. 1232. ISBN 978-0915957729. 
  15. ^ Ibn Kathir (2000 (English translation)). Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Aziz (Tafsir Ibn Kathir). Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam Publications. pp. 6608. ISBN 978-1591440208. 
  16. ^ Sina, Ali (2008). Understanding Muhammad: A Psychobiography of Allah's Prophet. Prometheus Press. pp. 316. ISBN 978-0980994803. 
  17. ^ Luxenberg, Christoph (2007). The Syro-Aramaic Reading of the Koran: A Contribution to the Decoding of the Language of the Koran. Verlag Hans Schiler. pp. 349. ISBN 978-3899300888. 
  18. ^ Ibn Kathir (2000 (English translation)). Tafsir al-Qur'an al-Aziz (Tafsir Ibn Kathir). Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: Darussalam Publications. pp. 6608. ISBN 978-1591440208. 
  19. ^ [Islam:Beliefs and Teachings, by Ghulam Sarwar]

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Look at other dictionaries:

  • Mohammedan SC — Mohammedan Sporting Club Mohammedan SC Club fondé en 1 …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Mohammedan — Mo*ham med*an, a. [From Mohammed, fr. Ar. muh[ a]mmad praiseworthy, highly praised.] Of or pertaining to Mohammed, or the religion and institutions founded by Mohammed; in the latter sense, synonymous with {Islamic}, the term preferred by Moslems …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mohammedan — Mo*ham med*an, n. A follower of Mohammed, the founder of Islam (also called Islamism or Mohammedanism); an adherent of Islam; one who professes Mohammedanism or Islamism; a Muslim; a Moslem; a Musselman; this term is used mostly by non Moslems,… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • Mohammedan — see MOHAMMED (Cf. Mohammed). Related: Mohammedanism …   Etymology dictionary

  • Mohammedan — [mō ham′i dən] adj. of Mohammed or Islam n. MUSLIM: This term used, esp. formerly, by non Muslims …   English World dictionary

  • Mohammedan SC — Dhaka Mohammedan SC Voller Name Dhaka Mohammedan Sporting Club Ort Dhaka …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Mohammedan — also Muhammadan adjective Date: 1681 of or relating to Muhammad or Islam • Mohammedan also Muhammadan noun • Mohammedanism also Muhammadanism noun …   New Collegiate Dictionary

  • Mohammedan — noun (C) a word meaning Muslim, now considered offensive by most Muslims Mohammedan adjective …   Longman dictionary of contemporary English

  • Mohammedan — Mohammed, Mohammedan The preferred spellings are Muhammad, Muhammadan. Muslim is preferred for the second the these …   Modern English usage

  • Mohammedan — var. of MUHAMMADAN. * * * Mohammed, Mohammedan etc.: see Muhammad, Muhammadan, and related words …   Useful english dictionary

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