Over at PJ Lifestyle I explore the latest manifestation of the American’s Left’s infatuation with Muhammad:
The Huffington Post has published yet another article extolling the virtues of the orthodox Christian view of Jesus Christ – no, of course I am not serious. The Huffington Post would never publish something as right wing and sectarian as that. No, what the HuffPo has published is another in a long string of articles in praise of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, who is a much more palatable figure to the American Left.
The latest, “What Studying Muhammad Taught Me About Islam,” published in the HuffPo last week, is as risible as Karen Armstrong’s likening Muhammad to Gandhi, and is as gracefully written as a seventh grader’s book report. But for the Huffington Post, accuracy and quality are of no import: if it downplays the grim reality of Islamic jihad terror, then it’s good enough for them.
The author of the piece is Craig Considine, who has previously likened Muhammad to George Washington and claimed that Christianity has a concept of jihad just like Islam’s. He pulls off these feats of legerdemain by employing a very simple method: ignoring what doesn’t fit his thesis, as he does here.
“In this short essay,” says Considine in his irredeemably clunky prose, “I want to share with you what I have learned about Muhammad and how his legacy informs my understanding of Islam. Muhammad’s beliefs on how to treat religious minorities make him a universal champion of human rights, particularly as it pertains to freedom of conscience, freedom of worship, and the right for minorities to have protection during times of strife.”
That is fanciful enough, but Considine plows on:
“Muhammad initiated many legal covenants with Christians and Jews after establishing his Muslim community. For example, in one covenant with the Christian monks at Mount Sinai, Egypt, Muhammad called on Muslims to respect Christian judges and churches, and for no Muslim to fight against his Christian brother or sister. Through this agreement, Muhammad made it clear that Islam, as a political and philosophical way of life, respected and protected Christians.”
The document to which Considine is referring, the Achtiname, is of even more doubtful authenticity than everything else about Muhammad’s life. Muhammad is supposed to have died in 632; the Muslims conquered Egypt between 639 and 641. The document says of the Christians, “No one shall bear arms against them.” So were the conquerors transgressing against Muhammad’s command for, as Considine puts it, “no Muslim to fight against his Christian brother or sister”? Did Muhammad draw up this document because he foresaw the Muslim invasion of Egypt? There is no mention of this document in any remotely contemporary Islamic sources; among other anomalies, it bears a drawing of a mosque with a minaret, although minarets weren’t put on mosques until long after the time Muhammad is supposed to have lived, which is why Muslim hardliners consider them unacceptable innovation (bid’a).
The document exempts the monks of St. Catherine’s monastery from paying the jizya. While it is conceivable that Muhammad, believing he bore the authority of Allah, would exempt them from an obligation specified by Allah himself in the Qur’an (9:29), the Achtiname specifies that Christians of Egypt are to pay a jizya only of twelve drachmas.
Yet according to the seventh-century Coptic bishop John of Nikiou, Christians in Egypt “came to the point of offering their children in exchange for the enormous sums that they had to pay each month.”
The Achtiname, in short, bears all the earmarks of being an early medieval Christian forgery, perhaps developed by the monks themselves in order to protect the monastery and Egyptian Christians from the depredations of zealous Muslims.
Considine doesn’t mention any of the questions about the Achtiname’s authenticity. Instead, he just piles on more:
Similarly, in the Treaty of Maqnah, the Prophet stated Jews “may be in peace… you are in security [under Muhammad’s rule]… Towards you is no wrong and no enmity. After today you will not be subject to oppression or violence.” In the Constitution of Medina, a key document which laid out a societal vision for Muslims, Muhammad also singled out Jews, who, he wrote, “shall maintain their own religion and the Muslim theirs… The close friends of Jews are as themselves.” In safeguarding the rights of Jews, Muhammad made it clear that a citizen of an Islamic state did not have to follow Islam and that Muslims should treat Jews as they would their own friends. In developing these agreements with his fellow Muslims, Christians, and Jews, Muhammad clearly rejected elitism and racism and demanded that Muslims see their Abrahamic brothers and sisters as equals before God.
Here again, both the Treaty of Maqnah and the Constitution of Medina are of doubtful authenticity. The Constitution is first mentioned in Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad, which was written over 125 years after the accepted date for Muhammad’s death. Unfortunately for Considine, Ibn Ishaq also details what happened to three Jewish tribes of Arabia after the Constitution of Medina: Muhammad exiled the Banu Qaynuqa and Banu Nadir, massacred the Banu Qurayza after they (understandably) made a pact with his enemies during the pagan Meccans’ siege of Medina, and then massacred the exiles at the Khaybar oasis, giving Muslims even today a bloodthirsty war chant: “Khaybar, Khaybar, O Jews, the army of Muhammad will return.” Funny how we never hear Muslims chanting, “Relax, relax, O Jews, the Constitution of Medina will return.”
Considine then goes on to claim that Muhammad “fought against racism long before the days of Martin Luther King Jr. and Nelson Mandela.” He says, with his inimitable gift for imitating a seventh-grader’s peroration, that “Muhammad’s final sermon informed me that Islam teaches Muslims to be tolerant of difference and welcome to diversity.”
Yet all too many Arab Muslims have lorded it over non-Arab Muslims throughout Islamic history, and some do today. Why are there so many who misunderstand Muhammad’s clear words here? Perhaps because Muhammad is also said to have declared: “Allah has chosen the Arabs above others” (‘Umdat al-Salik M4.2)….
There is more.