The timing of this HuffPo article and Robert Spencer's devastating critique of it couldn't be better. Having just posted a 2010 interview with Mark Durie about his peerless book on Islam, The Third Choice,
Durie's words were still fresh in my mind, specifically his assessment of Muhammad:
[After 9/11] I knew I had to try to understand Islam properly. So I read the hadiths, the Koran, and Ibn Ishaq’s biography of Muhammad in the months after 9/11, with the eye of a theologian – I was constantly asking how this material would form people’s spiritual identity. This exploration made me deeply troubled. The persona of Muhammad which arose before me from Islam’s primary sources shocked me to my core. I thought, “If this man’s life is supposed to be the best example, we are all in deep trouble.”
Durie's response to examining Islam's primary sources is the proper, healthy response. Distorting or concealing the truth about Muhammad and Islam is to advance a lie. Christians, by virtue of their desire to forgive their enemies and think the best of others, are especially susceptible to the temptation to paint a halo around Muhammad and think of Islam as a nearly compatible religion. It cannot be emphasized enough that no saint of the Church has ever been soft on Islam or Muhammad. See St John of Damascus
and St Gregory Palamas
as two prime examples. And consider the words of Righteous New-Martyr Fr Daniil Sysoev:
One must respect mistaken people but not their mistakes. Truth is one, that which contradicts and negates truth is a lie, and respect for a lie is contempt for the truth.
Education is essential when it comes to Islam, and refuting the clueless and deceptive paeans praising Muhammad as a paragon for modern, pluralistic society, or as a prototypical defender, protector and guarantor of rights and safety to Christians and other religious minorities, is the duty of those who value and uphold truth, freedom and human dignity.
Huffington Post: “Muhammad’s beliefs on how to treat religious minorities make him a universal champion of human rights”
by Robert Spencer, Jihad Watch
— January 24, 2014
This article 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.
“What Studying Muhammad Taught Me About Islam,” by Craig Considine in the Huffington Post
, January 21:
Muslims worldwide have recently joined together to celebrate Mawlid al-Nabi, the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. This day is an opportunity for Muslims and non-Muslims, such as myself – a Catholic – to reflect upon the life and legacy of the prophet of Islam. In this short essay, 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.
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.
[Regarding this spurious document, also called the 'Charter of Privileges', see also my post here.]
This document, 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.