Myths about Islam’s founder (Mohammed, Muhammad, tomato, tomato)

I’ve been slowly reading through Albert Hourani’s A History of the Arab Peoples and one of the things that has stood out to me is the fact that Muhammad was not a “war chief.” The War Chief Thesis is nothing more than a vulgar urban myth perpetuated by the ignorant or the nefarious.

Muhammad was a merchant and used his influence as a con man – oops! I mean religious leader – to become a trusted arbitrator. The military expansion of Arab factions happened decades after Muhammad’s death.

Most American conservatives aren’t exactly known for their grasp of history, but some should know better than to deliberately spread false rumors about the origins of the Islamic caliphate. What sounds easier to produce, though, if your end goal is the permanent presence of a militarized police force in the Middle East?:

  • A false narrative claiming that Islam is inherently violent and expansionist
  • An honest narrative explaining that the Islamic caliphate of the Middle East (which ended up being dominated by Turks, not Arabs) was a complex unfolding that involved lots of factors, most of which were non-religious and some of which are still misunderstood or overlooked today

If you think I am strawmanning the argument in favor of a Western police force in the Middle East, think again.

Given that the case for an overseas police force is so shoddy, why do its opponents (including myself) have no clout whatsoever in terms of influencing outcomes? I think part of this answer is that many opponents of an overseas police force are just as bad at producing false narratives as the proponents of empire, but there has to be more to it than this.

4 thoughts on “Myths about Islam’s founder (Mohammed, Muhammad, tomato, tomato)

  1. I would retract this comment – Muhammad was a merchant and used his influence as a con man – oops! – ( Reason – there is no empirical evidence of it.) – how do I know – Well I have read more it then you have.

    • Hi goaloflifeadmin,

      Anybody who claims to have been visited by angels or fairies or unicorns is going to have a tough time convincing me that he should be taken seriously.

      Anybody who claims to have been visited by angels or fairies or unicorns and wants my cooperation in some way because of those visits is simply a con man.

      In the early nineteenth century an American teenager named Joseph Smith claimed to have been visited by God (he apparently spoke English by then, rather than Arabic). About 2% of the US population currently believes his story. The other 98% (correctly) view Smith as a con man. How is Mohammad’s story any different than Smith’s?

    • Let’s be fair to unicorns, angels, and fairies. A unicorn is nearly as valid a source of information as a forecast and at much lower cost.

Please keep it civil

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