Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Truth About Muhammad Review

I finished reading Robert Spencer's latest book, The Truth About Muhammad.

It's essentially a biography of Islam's founder, based entirely off of their own most reliable sources. Contrary to popular belief, the Qu'ran is not the only source of wisdom for the muslim; the hadith (collections of Muhammad's sayings and experiences) and the sira (biographies of Muhammad, sometimes based in part on the hadith) also form the core basis for Islamic theology.

The point of Spencer's book is to not only lay out the general consensus for Muhammad's life and most important experiences and teachings as it's found in the muslim community, but also to give a crash course in Islamic theology and show why Muhammad's life is important.

In Islamic theology, Muhammad is the "perfect man." That is, he was as holy as they come. In order to be a good muslim, one should obey all of his teachings and follow his example. After his death, Islamic theology rose around Muhammad's teachings, his example, and his silences (those things he observed but did not condemn).

That, as Spencer observes, is a huge problem for those who constantly remind us that Islam is a "religion of peace." Muhammad spent the better part of his time as a religious leader commanding armies, leading raids on caravans, ordering assassinations, and more. When Muhammad teaches that all good muslims must obey his teachings and imitate his example, this history becomes incredibly problematic.

Of course, as we're reminded, not every muslim out there is strapping bombs to their bellies and blasting off into the afterlife. Unfortunately, it would seem that in order to achieve such peacefulness, one must ignore the teachings of this religion. Peaceful muslims would seem to be the Islamic equivalent to Unitarians.

Spencer argues that the best approach for ensuring peace and security, both for the US and those in the broader world, would be to combine efforts and post-modern secularization for Islam with any international actions, including visa/green card applications. Refusing to acknowledge the danger of Islam's teachings, he argues, does nothing to stem the tide of terrorism at home and abroad.

The book is 90% history, so whether you agree or disagree with his conclusion, it's worth reading if only as a very good look at the life of a figure playing prominently in current world events.

No comments: