Why I Wrote a Book on Muḥammad
John C. Rankin (September 23, 2013)
My priorities, in study and ministry, is that of biblical ethics, and it is the interpretive lens through which I look at all matters, always testing my own assumptions and the assumptions of others. The goal of the Gospel as it interfaces with ethics and public policy is to serve religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally. And such freedom is only possible – for all people – if first rooted in a true definition of terms. In the Garden of Eden, Yahweh Elohim gives us the choice between the fruit that is good and serves freedom and life, and the fruit that is evil and leads to slavery and death.
In my studies about Islam across the years, I have read various biographies of Muḥammad, and the most ancient, authoritative and extant biography is that of Ibn Isḥāq, written in the second century A.H. (eighth century A.D.), about 100 years after Muḥammad’s death.
Ibn Isḥāq is an honest historian, but also working with various sources, some trustworthy, and some he questions. But in recording the primary sources that come from a known chain of custody back to Muḥammad and his companions, Ibn Isḥāq gives us the profile of Muḥammad that Muslims have patterned themselves after for some 1400 years. Thus, the matter of ethics.
My purpose in this new book, The Real Muḥammad: In the Eyes of Ibn Isḥāq, is to let this candid profile of Muḥammad become accessible, and thus serve people’s freedom of informed choice. It is a profile of a violent and imposed religion according to Ibn Isḥāq, but too, this he believes, in the eighth century, is how it should be.
But does such a religion truly satisfy the human soul – Muslim or otherwise?
Here is the content of the back cover:
Can Muḥammad satisfy the Muslim thirst for freedom?
I believe all people are hardwired by the one true Creator for full religious, political and economic liberty. Muḥammad is the prophet of Islam, and his way of life, or Sunna, determines every detail of a Muslim’s life. He is the measure of the Islamic understanding of the social order and politics. But how well do Muslims, or any of us, know the real Muḥammad?
In these pages, we will look at:
1. A summary of Ibn Isḥāq’s biography, or Sira, of Muḥammad’s life, person and character. Ibn Isḥāq’s Sira is the most ancient, extant and authoritative source we have for Muḥammad’s life.
2. How Ibn Isḥāq’s narrative represents Muḥammad as fulfilling and transcending the Hebrew Bible and Christian New Testament;
3. A presentation of appropriate biblical texts in the footnotes; and
4. In the epilogue, a brief biblical perspective on how to serve religious, political and economic liberty for all people equally – Jewish, Christian, Muslim or otherwise.
The crux of the issue is this: Islam is historically a one-way religion. It is rooted in Muḥammad’s person as the prophet of Allah, bringing forth the Qur’an. Whether a person is born into, chooses to enter, or is driven into Islam, he or she is prohibited from leaving it. Muḥammad builds and enforces this assumption over the course of his life. His right hand man, and the first caliph after Muḥammad’s death, Abu Bakr, puts it this way: “Allah sent Muḥammad with his religion and he strove for it until men accepted it voluntarily or by force.”
Is this what any or all Muslims embrace today? Is this what any person in any religion wants to embrace?