[Excerpts, with occasional modest edits, from The Real Muḥammad: In the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq, copyright 2013, TEI Publishing House. All quotations from the Sīrat Rasūl Allāh (“Life of the Messenger of Allāh”) are from the translation by Alfred Guillaume (Oxford University Press), copyright 1955. These stories are faithfully passed along from the most ancient, extant and authoritative biography of Muḥammad. All Muslims are called to imitate Muḥammad in their daily lives, and Muslim scholars know that Ibn Isḥāq is the best source for the historical Muḥammad, despite concern for various hon-historical material. The question is this: Can Muḥammad satisfy the Muslim thirst for freedom? How many people, of their own volition, would follow Muḥammad if they were free to choose otherwise? The same question is freely received by Muslims who would question Christians who follow Jesus as the Son of God]

Abū Bakr’s Violence at a Jewish School

John C. Rankin

Abū Bakr continues in the same preemptory assumption that the Jews and Christians “know” that Muḥammad is their true prophet, and accordingly enters a Jewish School where a rabbi named Finḥās is teaching. In their midst and on their own property, Abū Bakr also calls for their submission to Islām. Finḥās responds to this interruption: “We are not poor compared to Allah but He is poor compared to us.”

Abū Bakr was enraged and hit Fiḥhās hard in the face, saying, ‘Were it not for the treaty between us I would cut off your head, you enemy of Allah!’ Finḥās went immediately to the apostle and said, ‘Look, Muhammad, at what your companion has done.’ The apostle asked Abū Bakr what had impelled him to do such a thing and he answered:

“ ‘The enemy of Allah spoke blasphemy. He alleged that Allah was poor and that they were rich[,] and I was so angry that I hit his face.’ Finḥās contradicted this and denied that he had said it, so Allah sent down refuting him and confirming what Abū Bakr had said: ‘Allah has heard the speech of those who say, “Allah is poor and we are rich,” We shall write what they say[,] and their killing the prophets wrongfully[,] and we shall say, Taste the punishment of burning.” ’ ”

Muḥammad does not rebuke Abū Bakr [his second-in-command], but instead affirms his anger as does Allāh: “And there came down concerning Abū Bakr and the anger he felt: ‘And you will certainly hear from those who received the book before you and from the polytheists much wrong[,] but if you persevere and fear God [Allāh][,] that is of the steadfastness of things.”

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