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Muhammad 25 – Methodology Of Studying Seerah 2 Problems With Orientalism
Channel: Jamal Badawi
Series: Jamal Badawi - Muhammad
File Size: 6.85MB
Episode Transcript ©
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Assalamu Aleikum and we welcome you once again to Salman focus.
Today's program will be our 25th. In our series, Mohammed May peace be upon him the last messenger of God. And our second on methodology of studying sera. I'm your host, the shark nation here once again from St. Mary's University. is Dr. Gemma better. So I conducted
for the benefit of our viewers, could we please have a summary of last week's program? First of all, we define the term Syrah as one that refers to the study of the life and biography of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Secondly, we describe the importance of studying of that subject or choreography, both for Muslims and for non Muslims as well
in terms of trying to understand the reality of Islam, the truth of Islam. And thirdly, we summarize very briefly some of the important characteristics that characterize his his biography, as compared with the biography of other great prophets or other great men in history. And the last point we mentioned is that one has to be very cautious really, in terms of formulating an idea about the profit on the basis of books written by non Muslim or the interests because of certain basic methodological errors in their approach to the study of Sierra
documentary, what are some of these errors in methodology?
There are a number of references relatively recent differences that address this issue.
Among two of the best references is one written by Dr. Amanda Dean falleen. It's called an Arabic The rasa sera are studied in Sierra published in 1982.
And also another reference to which Dr. falleen also affair quite frequently and excellent when written by another historian Dr. Jawad alley. It's called radical Islam or history of Arabs in Islam.
Dr. jorde only gives some specific examples in the first volume of his work.
And he deserves at least two or three basic areas of errors.
First, is that some orientalist seem to have been rather hasty in judging Islam, on the basis of their emotions and their backgrounds. And many times even in doing so they depend on weak narratives and leave the more authentic ones.
second problem is that many times also they jump to erroneous conclusions, simply because there are some superficial similarity of terms or words between, let's say, the Quran and previous scriptures.
And more specifically, he says that if the writer about the Prophet, for example comes from a Jewish background, then he tend to claim that the origin of all Muslim beliefs goes to Judaism.
If the writer or author comes from a Christian background, he tend to claim that all of the Islamic Creed's has to go back to the
I'd like to add a comment here on that second problem is that in addition to this, erroneous comparisons that are sometimes made between Muslim beliefs and Judeo Christian traditions,
it must be understood also that there are certain areas definitely as we discussed in some previous programs, some areas are genuinely similar. Even in some cases, specific issues are identical not only between Islam and Judaism, but between Islam, Judaism and Christianity as related to the oneness of God, for example, at least one level or one aspect of it.
But the difficulty here is that those writers do not even entertain the possibility that the similarity between the teaching of the messengers of God is simply because those messengers has one had one source for this teaching, and that's the one and same God who send them out. So this idea doesn't seem to figure so clearly in their minds. The third the type of problem that Dr. Jawad alleys refers to
is that some orientalist seem to have adopted nature and unauthentic
narratives which will be found in books of history even written by Muslims, but they will later writings they will not authenticated. And they use this kind of information to support their preconceived ideas and theories. Even though these narratives might have contradicted with the more authenticated and firmly established narratives,
and he gives an example to that of string virsh, the orientalist who even raised a doubt as to whether Mohammed was the original name of Prophet Mohammed or not, we'll come to that point apart. These are only examples of the methodological problems really. But in terms of the actual errors, of course, they are by 2000, just talking about the difficulty, because any other
errors in content or substance in presenting Islam or the prophet of Islam is a natural result of the methodology used. And if the methodology to start with is erroneous, obviously, the results are bound to the erroneous as
there were a number of errors and different narratives in the way that they viewed the meaning of the Quran. Now, maybe you can elaborate on the causes or the reasons behind these errors.
Well, of course, the most important and perhaps the major reason might say relate back to the background of the writers. Most of the writers orientalist wrote about Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him come from either Jewish or Christian, mostly Christian type of background. And obviously, in view of the historical legacy, in relationship between Muslims and Christians, especially things like the crusades, we find that those writers have been under the influence of the perpetual, you might take hate campaign against Islam and against the prophet of Islam was to find traces of that even in literature and media, until today, regardless whether things are factual or not, whether a
great deal of stereotyping is made or not, but this is this intervene even more prominent at the time when many of this orientalist were quite active in writing.
This unfortunate type of atmosphere might have contributed to the creation of a prejudice to some extent, even in some cases fanatical mentality, which was blinded to see any truth really, in Islam, and she is snam and the prophet of Islam only in the darkest possible way, in a way, which especially we talk about the late 19th century and early 20th century in a way that serves their purposes, which were a combination of colonial missionary and possibly other objectives behind it.
This perhaps, is the major views. But obviously, there might have been other mechanical reasons also, the extent of competence and knowledge of many of those orientalist of the Arabic language, which is the language of the Quran, the language of the saying of the Prophet and also the language of the most important and authentic historical documents and sources, about the life of the Prophet didn't have that much command of the language most of them. And that, of course, could be a source of a problem. Also, many of them did not have access to sufficient number of references in order to come up with more scholarly coverage of the topic.
We're not saying however, that all researchers were like that. Some of them were, indeed quite scholarly, some made very careful study of the manuscripts in Arabic after really commanding the language. Some were quite objective, or reasonably objective to say the least and the research. In fact, some of them like a tan Dini
embraced Islam after they studied the life of the Prophet carefully. And this was one of the famous authors actually co authored a book, called the mother so loudly, hammered the Messenger of God, in which he criticized actually his predecessors of other Orientals.
Grace is a subsequent subsequently was criticizing the other orientalist
for the way I guess that he got the viewer translating the Quran and interpreting now
two different aspects of the Islamic religion. What was the specific
content of his criticism of the Orientals? Well, according to the need, he said that it is very difficult if not impossible, for
orientalist to totally, you know, read himself from his emotions and in the environment in which he was brought up in when he writes about the history of the life of Prophet Muhammad.
He says this leads actually to a sort of distortion of the biography of the Prophet and the companions also, in spite of the claims constantly made by the orientalist that they are only using a scientific or objective approach in research.
And he explains that and he says that if, for example, the writers or the orientalist is German scholar.
He says he speaks about Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him with a German accent. If he's Italian, he speaks with an Italian accent. And as such, he says, the image or pictures of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, keep changing,
according to the identification or nationality of the writers. Then he says, if you really go back to the authentic biography of the Prophet, to find out the true picture of the Prophet, you can hardly find a trace of that picture in the writing of those orientalist. And then he gives another explanation he says that
many are some of those Slater's approach the study of the biography or history of the Prophet, peace be upon him
with what you might call Afro your eyes, assumptions with preconceived ideas and theories. And they try to fit everything with this kind of approach, assumptions that they have in mind.
The even the most authentic or the most well established historical studies of facts seem to have been distorted in a way again, to fit a frame of mind behead. Many times even he said that they do not even refer to an existing narrative to support the theory. And that they have been cases of even fabrication, they might make up even sort of imaginary stories, that they inserts in order to support their particular theories. We're as sort of interpretation but put in the middle as if it's part of unauthentic narrative giving the false impression that this is the explanation This is what indeed, happened.
And then he gives a third explanation also, and he says that in
any historical study, one must understand also the circumstances, time and place, you have to relate it to this, you have to relate it to the environment, to the customs of the people, world the narratives took place and also to the kinds of tendencies that existed. And it had these things actually are very important these factors, because they shed light on the historical events and avoid casting
things in particular mode, which is in inter,
in his evaluation, actually of the writing of the orientalist, you say that you find that they are writing about Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him. Again, as if Prophet Mohammed himself is speaking German, Italian, British or British, but seldom, Arabic, as indeed, sport. And from that, he concludes that the glorious image as he says, of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him in the Islamic heritage is definitely much more glorious novel than any of these artificial and e COVID. Artificial and unique images,
which are created in the shadow of libraries. I would add libraries filled with unauthentic and distort the differences about Islam for that matter and the prophet of Islam. I might add here also that there are some orientalist scholars who did not embrace Islam, like Denae, Muhammad Asad, or Martin Luther, many others intellectuals and scholars in the West, but at least some while remaining on their own religion were honest enough to admit that there have been some basic methodological errors of their fellow
scholars. Even Bowden says we're not totally free of those errors, but at least they were conscious of those kinds of biases and difficulties. People like Montgomery watt and Eman Birmingham and others.
Now, can you
talk about some of the critiques that
were brought about against different orientalist and different people who had not been
one reason or another, looked into this aspect from the totally objective point of view that what would like now to clarify the issue, can you give us possibly some examples of such critiques? Yeah, we there are examples even come on goes from micro, you know, did did not necessarily embrace Islam but at least had some degree of integrity that they admitted this difficulty. Even though like I say, I'm not endorsing everything they wrote they have some errors as well also. But Montgomery watt, for example, in his book, Mohammed in Mecca, acknowledges readily the greatness of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him. He admits his uprightness and perseverance. And then he says that the
Westerners or Western writers will accuse Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him of being an imposter, or be listened to him. Actually, he said that this kind of attitude is unfair, and that there is no important historical personality like Mohammed discovered him, who has been so much billeted as Prophet Muhammad was by those haters.
And, as one example of his
basic critique, a Montgomery watch refers to the writings of the French, just with father's father's laments, mm s. And he says that further domains seem to be quite selective by taking only the historical narratives, or events which seem to prove or confirm his own negative attitude towards Islam and the prophet of Islam. So he mixes and matches he accept the parts that support his own beliefs, reject others, on no ground, except his own
biases and negative attitude not on the basis of serious scholarship, or the authenticity of those narratives, or any regard to object objectivity.
in Birmingham, also shared the same kind of critique of father's laments, like, like what, and like what he says, while the men's really is perhaps one of the best orientalist, his point his books, he says, his point, his writings, with the attitudes of hate towards Islam and the prophet of Islam.
And murdering him even goes to criticize those who went to extremes.
imbed particular attitude of historical criticism. So they went to extreme to the point that they reached in complete negative type of conclusions. And he says that no biography in general is, strictly speaking, no biography can be based on negation. And this is a problem and which even some of the critics themselves seem to have fallen into, you can begin from negation.
The Mark is literally corrupt. I was wondering if you could possibly elaborate more on this negative approach that you've just mentioned. And this is all possible, to give us an example. Okay, the negative approach or negation writing biography from the standpoint of negation in the study of serum
means that while some of those writers use the Quran, which is for the Muslims, the Word of God, the most important source about Islam and its teaching, they use the Quran as a source of Syrah as a source of something that says about the life of Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, which does have some, but in a negative way, in a sense that
if there's anything that they had in mind already, that they want to negate, they can take excuse by saying, but it's not in the Quran.
Just give me an example of this and the response to that. Dr. Jawad alley, for example, in his book that I mentioned earlier, replies to the orientalist Springer.
I mentioned before that Springer went to the point even of this negative approach or negation to conclude even that, maybe Prophet Mohammed did not have that name before going to Medina. How he concluded that again, that's the use negative use of the Quran. It says the name Muhammad appears in the Quran four times. And in all four cases, they belonged to the revelation that came in Medina after the Prophet left.
And from that alone, he concludes that the name of Mohammed discovered it was not Mohammed before he went
That's strange enough. But what is even more strange for a scholars like him of his caliber to see
is that he's saying that
the reason why Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him chose that name after he went to Medina
is that he probably when he gets in contact with the people of the book, Jews and Christians, he read about the prophecies in the Old Testament and New Testaments about the coming of a great prophet, whose name is Muhammad. So he adopted that name in order to
claim for himself to be that long awaited profit. When I say leaving aside Now, the historical errors in that, and the fact that there's absolutely not the slightest evidence that Prophet Mohammed had a difference before going to Medina, aside from the fact that he might have forgotten that Prophet Mohammed despair, who did not know how to write either. Leaving all that aside, even if you look at it, analytically, in terms of the logic that spring presents us with, is that stringer acknowledges that there were some references among the Jews or Christians in Medina, as you can use some version somehow, that prophesied the advent of a great prophet and mentioned the name Muhammad
specifically. Well, if this is the case, according to his own assumption, what happened to the real Mohammed, that was prophesized to communist Prophet Mohammed is not the same as except where is he? That's a very strange kind of argument that he presents. One should add to that, that the reality of the fact is that Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, de facto,
is definitely the greatest and most successful of all profits, this acknowledgement made by some non Muslims. Also, that he was a prophet who changed the course of history.
His followers or his claims followers constitute one out of every finite human being 1 million, 1 billion people all over the world. Now, if the prophecy about the coming of a great prophet in the old New Testament, according to Springer,
have a person whose name is Mohammed, have the description fit in like a glove fits in the hand. So what become of the other Muhammad that he assumes, is not the one
that was prophesied in the old New Testament. But you see the problem. The the main question here from the from the mythological standpoint is basically this.
Where is the historical evidence that string Gods present presents or any reference even, that indicate that Prophet Muhammad peace be upon him, was not called Mohammed before he went to Medina, and that he chose that name for himself later on, upon discovering that the old the New Testament prophesied, a person by name, string that provides nothing except his own imagination, which is our which, of course, are totally substantiated. They see that the main purpose of springboro and other orientalist as well is not really
to study things objectively, but rather to cast doubt on anything.
And the most ridiculous of which, of course, is to crash there was even that Muhammad was called Muhammad. It just like some of the writers in the West, even denied that Jesus even existed, they said there was nobody called Jesus, they were just total creation of imagination. Of course, you could go to that for a ridiculous assumption, either about Jesus or Mohammed or say that Moses didn't exist and could go that far. But of course, there is no documentation of that at all. I think we must remember, however, that Koran is a major source of Syrah. But it's not a detailed biography, either about the Prophet peace be upon him. So it's equally erroneous also, to apply this as it is
to apply a materialistic approach in the interpretation or study of the biography of the Prophet. Now, interestingly,
Jamal, you've, you've brought up the point about the materialistic interpretation of history. Maybe we'll should pick up on this point and ask you to explain this further. Okay. Dr. falleen, for example, in his book I mentioned earlier gives an example of this. And he said that some people will try to explain the stages of the mission of Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon him, as if it were sort of response to circumstances rather than a divine plan.
To explain that he says some people, for example, clean that in the beginning.
Islam was just a source of national movements. But when the Prophet went to Medina, he thought he thought of me
Islam, a universal religion,
or that the nucleus of Islam or the universality of Islam did not grow
because of any particular plan or
methodology that God chose or the prophet or just something that was dictated by circumstances. Then he mentioned some of the responses of other orientalist even who criticized this kind of interpretation universe for example, to says Thomas Arnold, and Godzilla her not decayed. And he said that there are clear indications than this. All of these scholars agree that there are indications that the divine message was not intended to be limited to the Arabs alone. But it stemmed from the very beginning was intended to be a call upon all mankind to worship the one God.
In fact, I could substantiate death and we are seated on the court and it was indicated, I think, in my program that some of the early Mackey's revelation, even before the Prophet going to Medina speak about the universality of the message of Islam to all mankind. The strange thing is that some of them try to correct the errors of those who preceded him, but still followed him also in some of the errors. Take Thomas Arnold himself while upholding this critique,
that anyone who claims that the Prophet Mohammed for example, was all of a sudden transformed from a peaceful preachers to a person who's fighting and imposing his religion on others, by the sword, then he says, this is this is wrong, this is absolutely wrong. But he forgets himself again. And later on, he says that Prophet Mohammed initially intended, intended to establish an unionism.
And he succeeded in that, but in the same time, he also established a political system, which had a different kind of nature, even though in the origin, the original idea original plan,
his mission was religious. Again, we find an error of a different nature he is, that is the writers in that case, Arnold is trying to project his understanding of Christianity coming from a Christian background himself on Islam, and Islamic belief. Because in Islam, as we have indicated in some series, some years back that belief in the one God and the oneness of that God
in Islam is very much connected with the political system with the social system with education and system, because the sovereignty of God is all embracive and Islam is a tortured way of life. And in the minds of Muslim there is nothing called a no religion and state and this kind of artificial subdivision. So this is one of the examples of this materialistic approach they might be others may be when we have more time, we can set some light because I think it's a problem not only in interpreting Islam, but the materialistic approach also in interpreting any religion for that matter to dismiss any spiritual value and put it all in terms of
economic or social type of
circumstances on. Well, thank you very much. Hello, and thank you for joining us here in this form of focus. Once again, your comments and questions would be most appreciated that our phone number and address will be appearing on your screen for all of us who understand and focus