The Truth About Muhammad
|September 15, 2006|
|Media type||Print (Hardcover)|
|LC Class||BT1170 .S657 2006|
In the book the author proposes to present an account of what Muhammad said and did from the writings of the early biographers of Muhammad such as Ibn Ishaq, Ibn Sa'd al-Baghdadi, Muhammad ibn Jarir al-Tabari as well as the Qur'an and the hadith collections of Bukhari and Muslim. In the examination of the early sources, Spencer gives his view on the events of Muhammad's life which are invoked by contemporary Islamic clerics, governments, advocates and Yusuf al-Qaradawi today as a standard for their behaviour.
The book aims to draw a connection between Muhammad's legacy and modern day practices like child marriages and divorce laws, punishments such as stoning for adultery and amputation for theft, execution for apostasy as well as the jihad and dhimmi doctrines adopted towards non-Muslims, as found in some parts of the Muslim world.
Karen Armstrong criticizes the book as follows:
Like any book written in hatred, his new work is a depressing read. Spencer makes no attempt to explain the historical, political, economic and spiritual circumstances of 7th-century Arabia, without which it is impossible to understand the complexities of Muhammad’s life. Consequently he makes basic and bad mistakes of fact. Even more damaging, he deliberately manipulates the evidence. When discussing Muhammad’s war with Mecca, Spencer never cites the Quran’s condemnation of all warfare as an ”awesome evil”, its prohibition of aggression or its insistence that only self-defence justifies armed conflict. He ignores the Koranic emphasis on the primacy of forgiveness and peaceful negotiation: the second the enemy asks for peace, Muslims must lay down their arms and accept any terms offered, however disadvantageous. There is no mention of Muhammad’s non-violent campaign that ended the conflict. People would be offended by an account of Judaism that dwelled exclusively on Joshua’s massacres and never mentioned Rabbi Hillel’s Golden Rule, or a description of Christianity based on the bellicose Book of Revelation that failed to cite the Sermon on the Mount. But the widespread ignorance about Islam in the West makes many vulnerable to Spencer’s polemic; he is telling them what they are predisposed to hear. His book is a gift to extremists who can use it to ”prove” to those Muslims who have been alienated by events in Palestine, Lebanon and Iraq that the west is incurably hostile to their faith.
To this Spencer replied:
|“||This is, of course, a familiar tactic of Leftists, jihadists, and those who sympathize with them: characterize any accurate report of their activities as "hatred." Never mind that my book works strictly from the earliest extant Sunni Islamic sources, and only reports what they say. If there is any "hatred" in it, it comes from Sunni sources, not from me. [...] Reading this, I doubt Armstrong actually read the book. Or maybe she just wants to make sure no one else reads it. In fact, anyway, the beginning of chapter three, and many other passages throughout the book, are devoted to explaining "the historical, political, economic and spiritual circumstances of 7th-century Arabia.||”|
The government of Pakistan confiscated all copies of the book and banned it on 20 December 2006 citing "objectionable material" as the cause. Spencer responded that the book does not assert anything that is not readily verifiable in the sunni sources he provides.
Deepika Bains and Aziza Ahmed strongly criticized the book, pointing out structural problems, as well as "deep substantive flaws", such as unfounded assertions and conclude that: "With its lack of analysis, absence of historical context, and gaps in information. Robert Spencer's "The Truth About Muhammad" accomplishes Spencer's goal of vilifying Muslims and misinforming readers about Islam." Furthermore, "Spencer frames his book partly as a testament to the importance of the freedom of speech.' However, Robert Spencer exercises his right to free speech free from responsibility, choosing instead to inspire hatred and encourage intolerance." David Thompson writes in The Guardian that: "Robert Spencer provides a detailed and timely riposte to common misconceptions, outlining the mismatch between belief and historical reality and documenting the ways in which Muhammad's own deeds and purported revelations are used verbatim to mandate intolerance, xenophobia and homicidal 'martyrdom'." Concluding with "Denial, as they say, is not just a river in Egypt." Andrew G. Bostom wrote about the book in the Washington Times: "“The Truth About Muhammad” eschews contemporary “P.V. Muhammad” hagiography, reviving the highly informative, unapologetic genre of biographical narratives of Muhammad epitomized by the works of Muir, Margoliouth and Caetani." Andrew C. McCarthy wrote in National Review that this book is important and that everybody should read it: "Robert Spencer graphically illustrates the depth of our folly in thinking — or, rather, blithely assuming — otherwise. An alarming book, and a necessary one." Bruce Thornton wrote about this book: "Spencer’s new book continues this important service of arming us with the facts we need in order to understand an enemy who wants nothing from us other than our conversion, death, or subjection. ... Unless we heed people like Robert Spencer, it seems that only another graphic example of jihadist violence within our borders has a chance of teaching us the history of the enemy."
References and notes
- Best Sellers - NYT
- "Pakistan: Book Closed on Muhammad".
- Banned in Pakistan - FrontPageMag
- Inspiring Intolerance: The Truth about Robert Spencer
- The other side of the Prophet
- Scrutinizing Muhammad’s example and teachings
- Religion of Peace?
- A review of the book by Bruce S. Thornton
- C-SPAN Video presentation at the Herigage foundation: Lecture on The Truth About Muhammad: Founder of the World's Most Intolerant Religion
- Video: Robert Spencer talks Islam with Laura Ingraham on O’Reilly