Dr. Stephen M. Kirby
In this final part we will look a little further into Considine’s Fantasy Islam, and then my concluding remarks.
Muhammad did not condemn Christians to hellfire or call them inferior
On p. 113 Considine wrote:
…Muhammad did not condemn Christians to the eternal hellfire. Nor did the Prophet think that Christians are inferior people who have no chance of making it to heaven.
Once again, Considine has ignored the writings of authoritative Muslim scholars. Muhammad in fact did say that Christians were going to hell:
Abu Burda reported on the authority of his father that Allah’s Apostle (may peace be upon him) said: No Muslim would die but Allah would admit instead of him a Jew or a Christian in Hell-Fire.
It is narrated on the authority of Abu Huraira that the Messenger of Allah (SAW) said: By Him in whose hand is the life of Muhammad, he who amongst the community of Jews or Christians hears about me but does not affirm his belief in that with which I have been sent and dies in this state (of disbelief), he shall be but one of the denizens of Hell-Fire.
Muhammad said that on the Day of Resurrection people will be gathered in front of Allah by religious groupings: Then it will be said to the Christians, ‘What did you use to worship?’ They will reply, ‘We used to worship Masih (Messiah), the son of Allah.’ It will be said, ‘You are liars, for Allah has neither a wife nor a son. What do you want (now)?’ They will say, ‘We want You to provide us with water.’ It will be said to them, ‘Drink,’ and they will fall down in Hell (instead).
And Muhammad did say that Christians were inferior people:
It was narrated from ‘Amr bin Shu’aib, from his father, from his grandfather, that the Messenger of Allah ruled that the blood money for the People of the Book is half of that of the blood money for the Muslims, and they are the Jews and Christians.
Abu Huraira reported that Allah’s Messenger (may peace be upon him) had said: Do not greet the Jews and the Christians before they greet you and when you meet any one of them on the roads force him to go to the narrowest part of it.
At-Tirmidhi, a 9th Century Muslim scholar, wrote the following explanation for this second hadith:
“Do not precede the Jews and the Christians [in greeting]”: Some of the people of knowledge said that it only means that it is disliked because it would be honoring them, and the Muslims were only ordered to humiliate them. For this reason, when one of them is met on the path, then the path is not yielded for him, because doing so would amount to honoring them.
Again Considine ignores the writings of authoritative Muslim scholars in order to create his own Fantasy Islam.
The “peaceful” conquest of Mecca
Considine perpetuated the myth that the Muslims peacefully conquered Mecca in 630. On p. 99 he wrote that “Muhammad marched into Mecca and conquered it without shedding a single drop of blood.” On p. 100 Considine included a quote from Muhammad that indicated Muhammad had forgiven his enemies in Mecca. It is interesting that this quote is found on p. 553 in The Life of Muhammad (Sirat Rasul Allah), a book in which on the pages preceding that quote one can read that Mecca was actually conquered by force with the battle death toll being 12-13 Meccans and three Muslims.
Apparently Considine overlooked those pages.
Here is the reality of what Considine called a peaceful conquest:
In January 630 Muhammad approached Mecca at the head of an army of ten thousand Muslim warriors. Before they entered Mecca, Muhammad specifically ordered the killing of certain men and women for actions they had earlier taken against the Muslims. Muhammad also issued the following order to one of his commanders:
The Messenger of Allah continued on his way, until he entered Makkah from above and he ordered Khalid bin Al-Waleed to enter it from below and he said: “If any of Quraish [Meccans] opposes you, kill him and proceed until you meet me at As-Safa [a hill].” And none opposed them without being killed.
And Muhammad had a special order for the Ansar (the native Medinan Muslims):
The Messenger of Allah (may peace be upon him) said (to the Ansar): You see the ruffians and the (lowly) followers of Quraish. And he indicated by (striking) one of his hands over the other that they should be killed and said: Meet me at As-Safa’. Then we went on (and) if any one of us wanted that a certain person should be killed, he was killed, and no one could resist.
The army of ten thousand Muslim warriors entered Mecca from various directions, and after some brief fighting, the Meccans surrendered to the superior force. After their surrender, the Meccans started converting to Islam. Ibn Sa’d, an early Muslim scholars, wrote:
The Apostle of Allah, may Allah bless him, forced his entry into Makkah. Then the people embraced Islam willingly or unwillingly.
In terms of lives lost during the battle for Mecca, there were estimates that the Meccans lost 12-13 men and the Muslims lost three. Of the specific men and women Muhammad had ordered to be killed, four or five were actually killed.
After the conquest of Mecca, Muhammad said, If anyone should say, The [sic] apostle killed men in Mecca, say God permitted His apostle to do so but He does not permit you.
This the reality of what Considine called a peaceful conquest.
Muhammad standing for a Jewish funeral
On pp. 98-99 Considine wrote:
Prophet Muhammad also encouraged his followers to respect people of all faiths. This is noted in a hadith that Muhammad and several of his Companions were sitting down along a street in Medina. Suddenly a companion spotted a funeral procession approaching the group. In respect of the deceased soul, Muhammad stood as the procession crossed in front of him. At that moment, a companion, who was still sitting down, said to Muhammad: “This is the funeral of a Jewish person. He is not a Muslim.” Upon hearing these words, Muhammad issued back, “Is he not a human soul?”
Considine wrote that with those words, Muhammad’s message was “Respect all of humanity.”
However, there is more to this story than Considine indicated. Here is an authoritative hadith about this matter:
…A funeral procession passed in front of them and they stood up. They were told that that funeral procession was of one of the inhabitants of the land, i.e., of a disbeliever, under the protection of Muslims. They said, “A funeral procession passed in front of the Prophet and he stood up. When he was told that it was the coffin of a Jew, he said, “Is it not a human being?”
The key statement here is that the Jew was “under the protection of Muslims.” In other words, the Jew was a dhimmi living, at best, as a second-class citizen in Muslim controlled lands. This status of that Jew was likely a major factor in Muhammad’s decision to stand and make his statement. This is especially likely in view of three other hadiths about Muhammad standing for the funeral of a Jew. In the first hadith Muhammad “stood up for a Jewish funeral but he did not do it again.”
In the second hadith Muhammad stood up because “he did not want the funeral of a Jew to pass over [above] his head…” And in the third hadith Muhammad said he stood up for the sake of the angels, not the Jew.
It is simply inaccurate for Considine to claim that Muhammad standing for the funeral of a dhimmi Jew was a message to “respect all of humanity.”
On p. 42 Considine wrote:
Muhammad explicitly laid out the consequences of disrespecting Christians: “He who wrongs a [Christian] will have myself as his accuser on the Day of Judgment” (Al-Bukhari).
Considine provided no further details other than the source for this statement being “Al-Bukhari.” A variation of this quote is found in numerous sources online: “‘He who wrongs a Jew or a Christian will have myself as his accuser on the Day of Judgment’ (Bukhari).” The one common denominator to both of these versions is that the source is mentioned as only Al-Bukhari or Bukhari, but with no information about a Volume/Book/Hadith number. I searched two online PDF files of Sahih Al-Bukhari and I was unable to find this alleged statement by Muhammad.
Ahmed El-Wakil, of the Hamad Bin Khalifa University in Qatar, wrote that while this statement of Muhammad is not found in hadith collections, it is actually found in various treaties Muhammad made with non-Muslims. And the actual wording refers to the wronging of dhimmis, those non-Muslims who pay the jizyah, and by virtue of that status receive a certain amount of protection under Muslim rule. El-Wakil wrote:
Abū Nu‘aym al-Iṣfahāni (d. 1038 CE/430 AH) narrates another variant in which the Prophet’s injunction is justified because the non-Muslims are living in a state of humiliation, having accepted payment of the jizya:
“Muḥammad b. Ḥumayd narrated to us…that the Messenger of Allah—peace and blessings be upon him—said: ‘Whoever oppresses a dhimmi…who is paying the jizya and who accepts being humiliated, then I shall be his foe on the Day of Judgment…’”.
Muhammad was not talking about “the consequences of disrespecting Christians”; he was referring to Christians and others who had already accepted the humiliating second-class status of being dhimmis in the Muslim world.
On p. 101 Considine wrote:
Similarly, Muhammad told his followers that “kindness is a mark of faith and whoever has not kindness has not faith” (Al-Bukhari).
I did another search of the two online PDF files of Sahih Al-
Bukhari mentioned above and could not find this statement of Muhammad. But I did notice that an online search for this purported statement showed that it has been frequently mentioned, and generally with just the designation “Bukhari.” However, there were no Volume/Book/Hadith numbers included.
Considine made much of how well women were treated under Islam. On p. 95 Considine wrote:
In his Farewell Sermon Muhammad said to men, “Do treat your women well and be kind to them for they are your partners and committed helpers”.
As I mentioned before, Appendix 2 consists of Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon as purportedly reported by Ibn Hisham. However, this is what Ibn Hisham actually reported that Muhammad said about the treatment of women:
O people! You have rights over your wives and they have rights over you. You have the right that they do not take as a friend any one that you do not approve, and they do not commit evident obscenity. If they do so, Allah permits you to admonish them, desert them in separate rooms, or to beat them but without severity. If they cease (to do so), they have the right to provision and clothing with kindness. You are enjoined to treat women kindly, for they are captives in your hands and helpless. You have taken them only as a trust from Allah, and their private parts are lawful to you by the word of Allah.
As I noted before, one can only wonder where Considine came up with the version of the Farewell Sermon he included in his book.
As I noted in Part 1, the Rice University review of Considine’s book stated that his book “offers a research-based analysis of the prophet’s teachings and example.”
Here is Considine’s approach to research. As I pointed out in this series of articles, Considine used the works of only three early Muslim scholars as references (Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Hisam, and Al-Tabari), while at the same time ignoring information in those very works, and the works of other authoritative Muslim scholars, that directly contradicted what Considine was claiming. And Considine even mixed together two different events that were written about by those three scholars, among others, while leaving out significant information and thus creating a fictitious story that he claimed was true and has related to audiences around the world.
In terms of Ibn Hisham, Considine never specified where he came up with his version of what he claimed Ibn Hisham had written about Muhammad’s Farewell Sermon (Considine’s Appendix 2); and this was not even the version of Muhamad’s Farewell Sermon that Ibn Hisham had reported in his own biography of Muhammad. However, Considine’s version of what Ibn Hisham had supposedly written supported what Considine was claiming about Muhammad; what Ibn Hisham had actually written did not.
The authoritative hadith collections are a major source for understanding Muhammad’s teachings and example. And Sahih Al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim are considered the two most authoritative hadith collections. Unfortunately, instead of actually consulting the English translations of these two hadith collections, which are easily available both online and in book form, Considine appeared to have mainly relied on internet articles which had references such as “Al-Bukhari” or “Bukhari,” with no further source information, and which Considine simply repeated. Is this really an acceptable way of providing source information for a “scholarly” research article at a “top 20 university”?
As we have seen in these three parts, Considine used his own interpretation of Koran verses (while criticizing others for doing that very thing), made claims about Muhammad while ignoring numerous authoritative Muslim scholarly writings that contradicted his claims, and created his own version of Fantasy Islam to provide support for his claim about the “humanity” of Muhammad.
Is this really an acceptable approach at a “top 20 university” for a “researched based analysis” of Muhammad’s teachings and example? Would Considine really allow his students to submit research papers taking the same fantasy approach? I would like to think the answers are “No” and “No,” but I wonder.
Dr. Stephen M. Kirby is the author of six books about Islam. His latest book is Islamic Doctrine versus the U.S. Constitution: The Dilemma for Muslim Public Officials.