Hans Jansen in 2003
|Member of the European Parliament|
1 July 2014 – 5 May 2015
Johannes Juliaan Gijsbert Jansen
17 November 1942
|Died||5 May 2015 (aged 72)|
|Political party||Party for Freedom|
|Alma mater||University of Amsterdam (Master of Letters) |
Leiden University (Doctor of Letters)
Johannes Juliaan Gijsbert "Hans" Jansen (Dutch pronunciation: [joːˈɦɑnəs ˈjyliaːn ˈɣɛisbɛrt ˈɦɑns ˈjɑnsən]; 17 November 1942 – 5 May 2015) was a Dutch politician, scholar of contemporary Islam and author.
Hans Jansen belonged to the "revisionists" in Islamic Studies, i.e. he fundamentally doubted the historicity of the Islamic traditions on early Islam which were written only 150 to 200 years after Muhammad. Moreover, Jansen doubted the existence of Muhammad as a historical person.
Life and career
Hans Jansen's parents were strict Calvinists. At the age of 17, Jansen began studying theology at the University of Amsterdam, yet changed the subject after one year to Arabic and Semitic languages. In 1966 he spent one year in Cairo in order to learn Arabic. Then he continued his studies at the University of Leiden where he made his Ph.D. in 1974.
Jansen taught at the universities of Groningen, Leiden and Amsterdam, and was director of the Dutch Research Institute in Cairo. Then he became associate professor at the University of Leiden. 2003-2008 he was Houtsma Professor of Modern Islamic Thought at the University of Utrecht.
In 1988 Jansen converted to Catholicism. He later said that he then thought also about a conversion to Islam: Islam has "a very attractive and powerful culture, a high culture, great beauty. An enormous suction effect." Jansen was married twice. His first wife Eefje van Santen was daughter of the communist politician Joop van Santen. With his second wife he had three children. One of his sons is a cabaret artist.
While his university studies Jansen was member of a leftist group and left the room in protest when somebody mentioned the word "Israel". The turning point of his opinion about Islam was the assassination of Egyptian president Anwar Sadat in 1981. Some of his friends experienced the event personally.
In 2008 he advised Geert Wilders about his anti-Islam movie Fitna and in 2010 he was a principal witness in the trial of Geert Wilders. During this trial, a judge approached him during a dinner party and allegedly tried to convince him that the trial was justified. As a result, the judges were substituted and a retrial was ordered. The judge who was alleged to have attempted to influence him subsequently retired from the bench.
Jansen was an expert witness on the Koran and Shariah in the trial in Birmingham Magistrates Court (Crown vs Timothy Martin Burton) on 8 April 2014, which came to be known as the Birmingham Taqiyya Trial. Mr Burton was subsequently found not guilty of Racially Aggravated Harassment.
Hans Jansen is part of the so-called "revisionist" or historical-critical line of Islamic Studies. He fundamentally doubts the historicity of the Islamic traditions on the beginning of Islam which came into being only 150 to 200 years after the event.
In his main work De Historische Mohammed (not available in English), Jansen discusses chapter by chapter the depictions in the prophet's biography by Ibn Ishaq resp. Ibn Hisham which is an important text for traditional Islam. He shows in detail, why the respective depictions are not credible. Jansen reveals self-contradictions, contradictions to other historical sources, embellishments by later authors, politically or theologically motivated distortions of the depiction, symbolic meanings of allegedly historical names, literary construction of the depiction according e.g. to biblical models, and chronological and calendrical incredibilities. In part Jansen only sums up what other researchers already had found.
- Although there were leap months at the time of Muhammad which had to be intercalated frequently into the moon calendar and which only later became abandoned (allegedly by Muhammad), not a single of the many most accurately dated events depicted by Ibn Ishaq is in a leap month.
- The most accurate dating of so many events by an author who writes 150 years later is not very credible.
- The depiction of a strong relationship between Muhammad and his wife Aisha is motivated politically resp. theologically: Aisha was the daughter of Caliph Abu Bakr who became Muhammad's successor against the claims of his rival Ali. In order to legitimate this succession against the Shiites who were in favour of Ali, the relationship of Abu Bakr's daughter to Muhammad became emphasized: That Aisha allegedly was the favourite wife of Muhammad, and that the prophet consummated marriage with Aisha allegedly at an astonishingly early age.
- The depiction of slaughtering the Jewish tribe of the Banu Quraiza is motivated politically resp. theologically: As the "treaty of Medina" shows, the Jews were initially part of the Umma and were addressed as "believers"; cf. the research of Prof. Fred Donner. When Islam later separated from Judaism, antisemitic readings of the past came into being. The threefold treason of Muhammad by three Jewish tribes is a literary construction according to biblical models, e.g. the threefold treason of Jesus by the apostle Peter, and thus is historically questionable. There are other traditions about the same event which tell that only the leaders of the tribe had been punished but not each single member of the tribe. The names of the three Jewish tribes do not occur in the "treaty of Medina". Finally, such a mass slaughtering would not have gone unnoticed, even not in Muhammad's time, and especially not considering that the victims were Jews: Jews used to live in international trading networks, and Jews are known to write down their history. Most likely, the slaughtering of the Banu Quraiza never happened.
- The depictions of Ibn Ishaq are generally known to boldly exaggerate the capacities of the prophet. According to Ibn Ishaq Muhammad always kills more enemies as according to other traditions. Even the depiction of the prophet's male potency who allegedly could satisfy all his wives in one night is exaggerated in a questionable way. Of the same category is the depiction of Muhammad as an illiterate person. The revelation of the Quranic text is all the more miraculous and the capacity of the prophet is all the more astonishing if Muhammad was an illiterate person.
- The account of Muhammad's message to the emperor of Byzantium, that he should convert to Islam, retrospectively justifies the Arabic expansion as a religious, Islamic expansion.
Jansen points out that the historically questionable traditions are of great importance for the interpretation of the Quran. The Quran mostly does not reveal the situation for which a revelation was made. The historical context is merely indicated, at best. Many Islamic traditions came into being long after Muhammad on the basis of mere guesses for what situation a Quranic verse had been revealed. By the historically questionable traditions the interpretation of Quran is restricted since then.
In the epilogue, Jansen concluded without further ado that Muhammad did not exist as a historical person. Thus, Jansen belongs to a minority within the "revisionist" school which supports this position. The book De Historische Mohammed was reviewed positively e.g. by Prof. Karl-Heinz Ohlig. A respectful but critical review was given e.g. by Stefan Weidner on Qantara.de. The historian Dan Diner highly acclaimed Hans Jansen's Mohammed as a work of enlightenment.
Books in Dutch:
- Inleiding tot de Islam (1987)
- De Koran uit het Arabisch Vertaald door Prof. dr. J.H. Kramers (1992) (edited by Asad Jaber & Johannes J.G.Jansen)
- Nieuwe Inleiding tot de Islam (1998)
- Het Nut van God (2001)
- God heeft gezegd: terreur, tolerantie en de onvoltooide modernisering van de islam (2003)
- De radicaal-islamitische ideologie: Van Ibn Taymiyya tot Osama ben Laden, Oratie Universiteit van Utrecht, 3 februari 2004
- Islam: een hoorcollege over de islamitische godsdienst en cultuur (2005, audio-cd)
- De historische Mohammed: de Mekkaanse verhalen (2005)
- De historische Mohammed: de verhalen uit Medina (2007)
- Bombrieven (2008, correspondence with Abdul-Jabbar van de Ven)
- Islam voor varkens, apen, ezels en andere beesten (2008)
- Zelf Koran lezen (2008)
- Eindstrijd, edited by Jansen & Snel (2009)
Books in English (Many other titles are not yet available in English):
- The Interpretation of the Koran in Modern Egypt (Leiden: E.J. Brill, 1974)
- The Neglected Duty: The Creed of Sadat’s Assassins and Islamic Resurgence in the Middle East (New York: Macmillan, 1986)
- The Dual Nature of Islamic Fundamentalism (London: Hurst & Company, 1997)
- For the Dutch blog GeenStijl.nl
- Arabist en PVV-er Hans Jansen overleden NOS May 5, 2015.
- Sheila Kamerman / Andreas Kouwenhoven: Zij aan zij met Wilders tegen de islam in: NRC Handelsblad 10 May 2014
- Cf. Jansen, De Historische Mohammed, 2005/7
- Karl-Heinz Ohlig: Ein Lesevergnügen, Review of: Hans Jansen, Mohammed - eine Biographie (German version), in: imprimatur No. 41, 2008
- Stefan Weidner: The Mohamed myth, in: Qantara.de 19 May 2008
- Dan Diner: Mohammed, das Neue Testament und Rotkäppchen, Review of: Hans Jansen, Mohammed, in: DIE WELT 30.03.2008
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