jewish acceptance of muhammad

Theo­phanes On The Medieval Jew­ish Accep­tance of Muham­mad As The Await­ed Messiah

The point of this arti­cle to com­pre­hend the ele­ment of oppor­tunism and util­i­tar­i­an­ism as being the key ele­ment in the devel­op­ment of Mes­sian­ic hopes among the medieval Jews. 

There exist scores of prophe­cies,” visions” and recog­ni­tion by the var­i­ous medieval Rab­bis and Jew­ish mys­tics, which whole-heart­ed­ly iden­ti­fy and accept peo­ple such as King Cyrus of Per­sia, Alexan­der the Great, Prophet Muham­mad(P) and the sec­ond Arab caliph Umar I(P) as the promised Jew­ish Messiah.

Fur­ther, in this regard, I present in the fol­low­ing the per­ti­nent extract from the Chrono­graphia” of the medieval Chris­t­ian his­to­ri­an and the­olo­gian Theophanes. 

While read­ing this, his Chris­t­ian bias has to be remembered. 

For instance, when he writes :

    At the begin­ning of [Muham­mad’s] advent the mis­guid­ed Jews thought he was the Mes­si­ah who is await­ed by them”

Though the incident(s) referred to could very well have been true, yet the descrip­tion of those Jews as mis­guid­ed” does not rep­re­sent actu­al­i­ty, but the reporter’s Chris­t­ian bias.

The extractTheo­phanes, The Chron­i­cle of Theo­phanes Con­fes­sor,” as repro­duced in Read­ings in Late Antiq­ui­ty : A Source­book, tr. Cyril Man­go and Roger Scott, ed. Michael Maas (New York : Rout­ledge, 2000), p. 355 is as follows :

AM 6122 [A.D. 629]

In this year died Muham­mad, the leader and false prophet [sic!] of the Sara­cens, after appoint­ing his kins­man Abour­bacharos [Abu Bakr] to his chief­tain­ship. At the same time, his repute spread abroad and every­one was frightened.

At the begin­ning of his advent the mis­guid­ed[!] Jews thought he was the Mes­si­ah who is await­ed by them so that some of their lead­ers joined him and accept­ed his reli­gion while for­sak­ing that of Moses, who saw God.

Those who did so were ten in num­ber, and they remained with him until his mur­der. But when they saw him eat­ing camel meat, they real­ized that he was not the one they thought him to be, and were at a loss what to do ; being afraid to abjure his reli­gion, those wretched men taught him illic­it things direct­ed against us, Chris­tians, and remained with him…

He taught his sub­jects that he who kills an ene­my or is killed by an ene­my goes to Par­adise ; and he said that this par­adise was one of car­nal eat­ing and drink­ing and inter­course with women, and had a riv­er of wine, hon­ey, and milk and that the women were not like the ones down here, but dif­fer­ent ones, and that the inter­course was long-last­ing and the plea­sure con­tin­u­ous ; and oth­er things of profli­ga­cy and stu­pid­i­ty ; also that men should feel sym­pa­thy for one anoth­er and help those who are wronged.

It would be a clas­sic faux pas to uncrit­i­cal­ly accept the account of Theo­phanes. Rest assured that Theo­phanes’ was a heresy-based account, coloured fur­ther by his bias as a Chris­t­ian the­olo­gian as not­ed earlier.

He was right inso­far regard­ing Jew­ish accep­tance of Muham­mad, as he spoke of some Jews hav­ing accept­ed Muham­mad(P) as the Mes­si­ah because that is attest­ed by oth­er cir­cum­stan­tial evi­dence as well — but that was it. All oth­er sec­ondary details in his account — details such as the num­ber of those Jews as ten,” Muham­mad’s(P) eat­ing of camel’s meat” as the cause of those Jews’ rever­sion, Muham­mad’s(P) telling the Jews illic­it things” about the Chris­tians, Muham­mad’s(P) mur­der”, etc. — were all clear­ly big­ot­ed myth­i­cal stereotypes.

Iron­i­cal­ly, it evad­ed Theo­phanes’ atten­tion that if (as he claimed) the Jews had reject­ed the Mes­si­ahship of Muham­mad(P) because they saw him eat­ing camel meat”, then there would have been no way those Jews had accept­ed Jesus(P) as the Mes­si­ah, con­sid­ered what the Gospel attrib­uted to him :

And he called the mul­ti­tude, and said unto them, Hear, and under­stand : not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man ; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man.“Matthew 15:10 – 11

How could Theo­phanes have jus­ti­fied the Jew­ish pro­hi­bi­tion of eat­ing camel meat in the pres­ence of this state­ment of Jesus ? And if, as Theo­phanes states, those Jews had reject­ed the Mes­si­ahship of Muham­mad for his vio­la­tion of the Jew­ish dietary laws, they would sure­ly have reject­ed the Mes­si­ahship of Jesus as well in light of his con­tempt for the same laws, as is dis­cern­able in the cit­ed verse.

This straw man clear­ly demon­strates that this whole sto­ry was cooked up by Theo­phanes in order to explain the embar­rass­ing report which had reached him, of some of the Jews’ accep­tance of Muham­mad(P) as their promised Messiah. Theophanes On The Medieval Jewish Acceptance of Muhammad As The Awaited Messiah 1Endmark

Cite this arti­cle as : Asif Iqbal, Theo­phanes On The Medieval Jew­ish Accep­tance of Muham­mad As The Await­ed Mes­si­ah,” in Bis­mi­ka Allahu­ma, Octo­ber 5, 2005, last accessed March 2, 2024, https://​bis​mikaal​lahu​ma​.org/​h​i​s​t​o​r​y​/​j​e​w​i​s​h​-​a​c​c​e​p​t​a​n​c​e​-​o​f​-​m​u​h​a​m​m​ad/

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2 responses to “Theo­phanes On The Medieval Jew­ish Accep­tance of Muham­mad As The Await­ed Messiah”

  1. mark Avatar
    mark

    This sup­posed state­ment by Theo­phanes sounds false. Has it been verified ?
    Why do I say it is false ? because in the first sen­tence he states Muham­mad died”. then you go down to the fourth sen­tence and Theo­phanes says that Muham­mad was Mur­dered. Murdered ?
    The sen­tence reads :
    Those who did so were ten in num­ber, and they remained with him until his murder.”

    So, the nar­ra­tor jumps from dying” to mur­der”. Which is it ? Could Muham­mad have been murdered ?

  2. artaufiq Avatar
    artaufiq

    Dear Asif Iqbal

    When Theopanes wrote,

    …those wretched men taught him illic­it things direct­ed against us…”

    he was say­ing that the Jews taught Muham­mad (PBUH) illic­it things not the oth­er way around as per your explanation,

    …Muhammad’s(P) telling the Jews illic­it things” about the Christians,…”

    Just had to clear this up. Infor­ma­tive article :)

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