Sunday, July 12, 2015

Muhammad the Spurned Lover

One does not read very far in the Qur'an before it becomes obvious that Muhammad was in some ways a spurned lover. Not that any women turned him away, rather that he longed to be part of the people of God-- but they would not have him.

Mohammad came close enough to Jews and Christians to be attracted to their God. He wanted them to accept him into their story, into their knowing the one true God, but he wanted it on his terms.

In the early Medina years he was not so much about building a community as he was about trying to join one. But again, he only wanted to join if he there was room for him along side the great historical personages of their faith. Of course, we all know that in the end neither the Jews nor Christians allowed him that place, so he made his own.

This desire to share a spiritual inheritance is a major, yet unresolved, motif in Mohammad's narrative. It is unresolved because exactly how Islam relates to its predecessors still hangs like a whiff of smoke in the air, noticeable, but just barely.  It also carries missiological significance.

Our presentation of the Gospel to Muslims must touch this deep nerve. One that offers them a place among the people of the true and living God - but not on their terms, not on our terms - on God's terms.

It seems to me that history is rhyming. Once again globalization is bringing many Muslims close enough to us to see our God. Many them are already wanting to share that narrative, and many more will in the coming years. The looming question to us is, "Will we act like "gatekeepers" who control the door, or like fellow beggars who have found crumbs and want to share?" 


Abu Daoud said...

Your claim that Muhammad came into contact with Christians enough to be attracted to their God but was 'spurned' by them--there is no historical evidence for this claim at all, to my knowledge. Can you please back up your claim with some solid hadith and historical evidence?

Warrick Farah said...

Hi Abu Daoud, good question.

Can you also cite a reference(s) to your claim that there is "no historical evidence" "that Muhammad came into contact with Christians enough to be attracted to their God"?

Abu Daoud said...

The hadith and Ibn Ishaq's early biography of Muhammad. More recent bios that report the same thing are those by M. Watt (Prophet and Statesman) and 23 Years by Ali Dashti. The point I'm making seems to so incontrovertible to me that I'm surprised your asking for sources, but there you have them.

Gene Daniels said...


First, please accept my apology for not answering sooner. I thought I had, but evidently that post was lost.

The reason I believe that Muhammad had interaction with Christians is that he extensively refers to their scriptures. Since I a priori reject Muhammad's claim to divine revelation,this is the simplest way to explain the amount of material which is common to the Qur'an and the Bible. Also the fact that Muhammad rejected what he mistakenly believed to be the Christian concept of of trinitarianism, then if is fairly obvious to me that he must of encountered enough of Christian faith to misunderstand it.

I could also cite a number of scholars who take a similar view of Muhammad's encounter with Christianity. However, in my opinion their views do not carry the same weight as the simple evidence I've outlined above.

I realize this will not be satisfying to you Abu Daoud if you hold to the inspiration of the Qur'an. But you asked me what I base my claim on and that is what I have explained.

Abu Daoud said...

Hello Gene,

Thanks for your response. I would welcome your citation of scholars who believe that there is evidence that Muhammad had extensive contact with Christians because I know of no respected scholars like that.

As to his patchwork 'knowledge' of Christianity is seems clear based on the hadith that is is second or third hand (at best), and this accounts for its complete lack of accuracy and precision. It is like the Baptist who heard from a guy who heard from a guy that Catholics worship Mary. That is, historically, what we see in the text of the Qur'an. I would allow for some narratives on the behalf on his Coptic concubine Maria, who as a concubine gifted to him after he had already turned against the people of the book, should not be considered to be someone who spurned him, nor as someone who knew very much about her own faith.

One sees similar dynamics in the Quran regarding the Jews when we find the ridiculous and historically baseless assertion that some Jews call Ezra the son of God. There is not a stitch of historical evidence behind this. It is more polemic for his followers than a historically accurate critique.

In any case, your theory is interesting but I hope that upon further research and conversations like this you will discard it as historically indefensible and turn to other, more fruitful, avenues of investigation.