Muqawqis and Maria Qubtia

In Islamic history, Muqawqis is identified as the ruler of Egypt who had sent the gift of two beautiful ladies to Prophet Muhammad. It is said that Prophet Muhammad accepted one, Maria Qubtia, as his concubine and with whom later on he had a son, Ibrahim, who died in infancy.

Muslim and Western historians have attempted to identify Muqawqis in Egyptian history but have not succeeded because “Muqawqis” is generally considered a title and not a proper name. Encyclopedia Britannica has speculated that it is “presumably a title referring to Cyrus,” but that is unlikely given historical facts. Although we may never know the proper name of Muqawqis, one needs to begin with a timeline to understand who Muqawqis was and under what circumstances Maria Qubtia was sent to Arabia:

TIMELINE

610 AD. Heraclius crowned for the second time.

616 AD. Sasanid Persians begin their offensive against the Byzantines.

After 616-? AD. Heraclius starts reforms and comes up with the idea of establishing administrative units (Themes) under the command of a strategos (military and civil governor). According to Encyclopedia Britannica, he granted, “his generals (strategoi) both civil and military authority over those lands that they occupied with their “themes,” as the army groups, or corps, were called in the first years of the 7th century.”

June 619 AD. Persian conquest of Alexandria is completed, according to an anonymous Jacobite Syriac chronicle. (1)

620 AD. Cyrus of Alexandria becomes the bishop of Phasis in Colchis.

622 AD. Heraclius starts his counter offensive against the Persians.

627/628 AD. Heraclius defeats the Persians. Historians say that he “re-conquered” Egypt in 629.

February 628 AD. Treaty of Hudaybiya.

Between Feb. 628 and 632 AD: According to historian Ibn Ishaq, the Prophet sent out letters to non-Muslim Arab and non-Arab foreign leaders, including Muqawqis: “The apostle {Prophet Muhammad] had sent out some of his companions in different directions to the kings of the Arabs and the non-Arabs inviting them to Islam in the period between al-Hudaybiya and
his death…[He] sent…Hatib b. Abu Balta’a to the Muqawqis ruler of Alexandria. He handed over to him the apostle’s letter and the Muqawqis gave to the apostle four slave girls, one of whom was Mary mother of Ibrahim the apostle’s son…” (2)

8 A.H. [May, 629-April 19, 630 AD] in the month of Dhu alHijah, Mariah gives birth to Ibrahim, the Prophet’s son. Tabari, Volume IX.

630 AD Heraclius restores the True Cross to Jerusalem.

630 AD. Cyrus of Alexandria is promoted by Heraclius to the vacant See of Alexandria.

632 AD. Prophet Muhammad dies.

The crucial date that one needs to look at is 8 A.H. [May, 629-April 19, 630 AD] the year Ibrahim was born, as reported by Tabari [3]. For the sake of argument, if it’s assumed that Ibrahim was born towards the end of April 630 AD, and one counts back nine months (unless he was born premature), it becomes apparent that Maria was in Medina by July 629 AD. So the letter that Prophet Muhammad sent was delivered sometime in between February 628 and July 629 AD—around the time when Maria arrived in Medina. This is the same period when Persian occupation of Egypt was ending and Heraclius was about to recapture Egypt.

The letter that Prophet Muhammad sent to Muqawqis and his reply are both available but their authenticity is often disputed. Muqawqis allegedly replied in Arabic, saying, “To Muhammad bin Abdullah from Muqawqis, governor of Qubt. After Salaam Alaik, I read your letter and understood its intent and meaning. I knew that a prophet was about to come but I thought that he was going to make an appearance in Shaam (Syria). I have given proper respect to your messenger, and I am sending two girls, who are held in high regard among the Qubt [Copts],
[some] cloth and a mule to ride on. Was-sallam Alaik.”

If the letter is authentic, it could not possibly have been written by Cyrus of Alexandria for the following reasons:

  1. Cyrus did not become the See until 630 AD, after Heraclius had recaptured Egypt. After the Persian invasion, “The Coptic patriarch Andronicus remained in the country, experiencing and witnessing suffering as a result of the occupation (Evetts, 1904, p. 486 ll. 8-11). His successor in 626, Benjamin I, remained in office well beyond the end of the occupation; during his time the Sasanians moderated their policy to a certain extent.” [1]
  2. Why would a Christian bishop send two Christian ladies, belonging to noble Coptic families, as virtual slaves to a non-Christian ruler? Persians had been killing men and keeping women as war booty, so it is unlikely that immediately after regaining freedom, they would start shipping out their own Christian women overseas.
  3. Why would a Christian bishop believe in the prophecy of a new prophet and say, perhaps facetiously or alluding to Jews waiting for the Messiah, that he was expecting the prophet to have come to Shaam (Syria/Palestine)? Christians believe in the Second Coming of the Messiah, not in the arrival of a new prophet.
  4. Why would Muqawqis use the phrase “who (are held) in high regard by the Copts” and not “who are held in high regard among us?”

The only logical explanation is that “Muqawqis” was not a Copt and was most likely the Persian governor during the last days of the Persian occupation of Egypt. There must have been an abundance of Alexandrine women left after the massacre. “Severus b. al-Moqaffa…also reported that in Alexandria every man between the ages of eighteen and fifty years had been brutally massacred (Evetts, 1904, pp. 485 l. 10-486 l. 3).” [1] So it’s very possible that from among captive women, Muqawqis took two Coptic sisters and sent them to Prophet Muhammad as gifts. Realizing that the Byzantine forces were gaining ground and about to re-take Alexandria, he gave away the ‘precious jewels’ that he had collected.

One possible reason that the Sasanian governor was kind towards Prophet Muhammad is that it is alleged that Christian Arabs assisted in Persian victory over the Byzantine Empire, and Muqawqis simply wanted to reward Prophet Muhammad whom he considered as the king of Arabs. “According to a Nestorian Syriac chronicle attributed to Elias, bishop of Merv (?), Alexandria was taken by treachery. The traitor was a Christian Arab who came from the Sasanian-controlled northeastern coast of Arabia.” [1]

What has been suggested above is a plausible theory. It is at least consistent with the Timeline given above, and since history from that period is murky, one has no choice but to make some intelligent assumptions. According to Iranica web site, “There is little information on the Sasanians in Egypt from literary sources. In the only surviving Ethiopic translation of the chronicle of John, bishop of Niciu, written in the second half of the 7th century, there is a gap between 610 and 640.” [1] History is also witness to the common phenomenon that trafficking of women usually occurs during foreign occupations and not when liberation comes to a people.

More research needs to be done on this issue but it’s clear from both Muqawqis’ letter and history that Maria Qubtia was no ordinary slave girl but one who belonged to a very noble family of Copts. It is interesting to note that both Prophet Abraham and Prophet Muhammad had Egyptian bondwomen who ended up in Arabia, and that could be the reason that Prophet Muhammad, seeing the obvious link between Hagar and Maria Qubtia, named his son, Ibrahim.

REFERENCES:

(1) http://www.iranica.com/articles/v8f3/v8f307.html#iv
(2) The Life of Muhammad, Ibn Ishaq, translated by A Guillaume
(3) The History of alTabari, The Last Years of the Prophet, Volume IX,
translated by Ismail K. Poonawala

16 thoughts on “Muqawqis and Maria Qubtia

  1. charmedshiva December 31, 2012 at 9:31 am Reply

    Are we somehow supposed to take something beautiful from the gifting of women, as if women are objects to gift to people, to a Prophet who accepted one gift and only as a concubine, and gave away the other gift to another man?

    • sincereadvisor December 31, 2012 at 2:52 pm Reply

      The purpose of my article was not to present it as something “beautiful,” but to correct historical facts with regard to the identity of Muqawqis. However, I will respond to what I think you are alleging. First of all, you need to understand that some moral values are eternal, such as truth, honesty etc., and some have to be viewed within the cultural and historical context. For example, nobody blames Prophet Abraham for marrying his half-sister Sarah and then marrying Hagar, his bondwoman, just to have children, and then abandoning Hagar in the middle of the desert. Similarly, nobody faults Krishna for seducing thousands of Gopi girls [the asserttion that it was all spiritual notwithstanding]. But when it comes to Prophet Muhammad, modern liberalism is applied to judge his character! Secondly, it seems that you did not read my article. As I had started, Copts were being massacred in Alexandria and most women had been enslaved. Had Prophet Muhammad returned this “gift,” these women would have remained slaves or killed. It was rather humane for Prophet Muhammad to keep Maria Qubtia for himself and give the other woman to a Sahabi, so these women would be under some protection and treated well. From all historical accounts, these women were not abused. Now, you may argue that Prophet Muhammad should have freed these women. Since slavery was widely prevalent in those days, it may not have been immediately possible. It took decades for Islam to raise the status of women [See my article, “Slave Women”] and greatly reduce the practice of slavery. But we do know from history [which is sketchy as far as Prophet Muhammad’s relationship with Maria is concerned] that two other women asked not to be touched and Prophet Muhammad completely left them alone. So, even if you are applying liberal standards, the relationship must have been somewhat consensual. After all, the Prophet did say, ” The rights of women are sacred. See that women are maintained in the rights assigned to them.”

      • charmedshiva December 31, 2012 at 10:39 pm

        Maybe you don’t blame them. Don’t speak for everyone. I certainly take issue with those teachings and so do others.

        Secondly, contextualization is separate from moral justification in an important way. Contextualization is to look at a practice within the confinements of the social, economic, etc. situations. It is perhaps to set boarders for which practices were upheld or continued. It is to frame conducts situationally.

        Using culture as an excuse to call something moral is a different story than simple contextualization. If it was the culture of the Prophet’s time to practice polyandry, he would have spoken against it and forbidden it (as he did). If it was the culture of the day for women to leave their breasts hanging bare and uncovered in public, he would have spoken against it and forbidden it (which he did). If it was the culture of the day to send off your babies to strange people from other tribes to raise them for 2-5 years instead of having the mother herself raise the children, does that mean the Prophet would have continue the practice? No, because he didn’t. There is no need to invoke old era and culture here. What about a culture makes it acceptable to abandon a woman who you just impregnated (which is not how Martin Lings puts it; the story is quite different), and what about culture makes it morally acceptable to gift off your women to strange men who will take them as concubines? A prophet’s moral code should transcend culture. He will accept that which is moral and reject that which isn’t, even for his own time period. Somehow in Islam, culture has become the excuse to justify gifting women to men, taking unlimited concubines, taking slaves, etc. All of this can be deemed perfectly fine in the name of “time and culture.”

        You erroneously assume that I am selectively picking Muhammad and ignoring the troublesome parts of other pieces of history. Sorry but this post wasn’t about Krishna or Abraham, it was about the guy who gifted Muhammad a concubine.

        Where does the evidence lie that Copts were being massacred at that time, and that the Prophet’s intention was to “save” her and her sister from possible torture? And I don’t buy the “it wasn’t possible at that time” excuse. That implies that the only reason the Prophet allowed for such things is because it wasn’t yet possible to eradicate them. Sorry but there is absolutely no sound indication that Islam ever intended to eradicate the community or the future communities of slavery and concubinage. The idea that it did intend to do so is just personal conjecture to try and deal with an obviously controversial part of religious practices.The only thing Islam did was set boundaries and rules for the practices. Don’t forget that other areas of the world have dealt with these things as well and successfully abolished them even though it was deeply ingrained in their culture and society, and even though they didn’t have the ‘divine’ support of God and a prophet with them. The Prophet’s companions would have followed him had he abolished slavery, had be abolished concubinage, had he abolished objectifying women. And why is it not a danger to society to have these “lesser wives” who are really slaves whom you are free to engage in sexual relations with under the guise of “possession” and “protection of chastity?” That’s not a danger to the institution of marriage and the mental health of women in society? Really?
        Rather, the devout assume it would have been a danger to society to treat all human beings as free and to treat women equally.

        I never talked about anyone taking these women without their consent. Consent is not the issue here. Some women might consent to getting gang banged sexually. Does that make it okay? You can’t justify a practice by looking at subsequent conduct like that.

        If it took decades for the Prophet to raise the status of women, it means that it took him his whole prophethood. He wasn’t successful with his message about women until he died? I don’t buy that. I also don’t know why that’s being mentioned at all.

        Lastly, I am not judging the Prophet Muhammad’s “character” against “modern” moral standards. I see that for his time, he was a significant person and brought a better version of morality than had already existed. People admit that because it deserves to be admitted. That doesn’t mean we can’t question and raise objections to the specifics.
        By the way, to treat morality as if it’s something ever evolving is to take a secular perspective. Religion is a doctrine. Cultural sensitivity to X is not necessarily the same as saying “X is immoral.” If in some day and age Arabs of Arabia decide that POW slaves and concubinage isn’t culturally repugnant, and they have enough support from the government to reenact the conditions set by the Prophet, then what stops them from reviving such practices? They were moral according to the Prophet himself. Whether or not we should be allowed to bring the practices back is only a matter of ijtihad. It’s not about “were those practices morally acceptable?”

      • sincereadvisor January 1, 2013 at 4:18 am

        Perhaps a book can be written about the issues that you have raised. However, I will try to be brief.

        While we can argue for the sake of arguing or be ‘contrarians’ to boost our own intellectual egos or cultural perspective, at some point you will need to acknowledge that no society is perfect and no moral philosophy, no matter how idealistic, is totally effective. Human weaknesses and needs are such that even religion in its purest form can water human growth and evolution but it cannot transform humans into angels. You are arguing from a point of view as to why Prophet Muhammad didn’t become an asexual angelic being and turned those around him into the same.

        Your attempt to distinguish culture from “contextualization,” which you define as “social, and economic situations” is somewhat arbitrary. Culture is a product of social and economic conditions, so the two areintrinsicallylinked. The purpose of religion is not to abolish any culture and replace it with a new one but to channel the society, one in which it would keep evolving. It’s a guiding light which moves with the society, showing the way, rather than steer the society in a particular direction. And that is because culture is never stagnant and religion has to coalesce with many different types of cultures.

        Even though you deny it, you are arguing from a point of view with which I am very familiar with. It goes something like this: The current ideology is liberalism, which is ideal. Let’s use it to judge cultures, historical characters, religious figures etc. If they didn’t meet those liberal standards, they are/were wrong. But there is a difference. If these cultures or characters are secular, every attempt is made to distinguish their ideas from their deeds–in fact their personal weaknesses are conveniently ignored. But if it’s religion or a religious person, then a bar is set so high that no human society or person can come close. As long as you are aware of this strong bias, we can make some progress:-)

        Essentially, you are asking, why ProphetMuhammadwasn’t a modern-day liberal? Had he been one, you would have thought that he was way ahead of his times and therefore you would have gladly accepted him as a Prophet of God. Right? But if I say to you that the world would be very different 100 years from now, with moral values far different, wouldn’t that again make Prophet Muhammad’s teachings obsolete? So no matter what Prophet Muhammad might have said or done, he could not possibly have won in your eyes! You see, that goes back to the old liberal bias, which says that the current liberal values [mostly determined by Westerners] are the right values. All other moral philosophies should not even be considered or be judged as deeply flawed.

        Now let’s get to the specifics. Concubinage was common in those days, and if Prophet Muhammad made Maria his concubine, he wasn’t violating his cultural mores. He didn’t do anything different than Thomas Jefferson, twelve hundred years later! Slaves in those days accepted their role and complied willingly with the wishes of their master. In both cases, the situation was wrong from our moral perspective, but it wasn’t cruel or unusual. In Prophet Muhammad’s case, he didn’t even buy or inherit this woman. How is this any different than arranged marriages in India and elsewhere, in which the girl is often wedded to a man she doesn’t even know? But since fate brings them together, that’s supposed to be acceptable, right?If ProphetMuhammadwanted to, he could have bought many, many women slaves, but he didn’t!

        You asked, “Where does the evidence lie that Copts were being massacred at that time” The answer is in my article, which I guess you still haven’t read.

        You stated: “Sorry but there is absolutely no sound indication that Islam ever intended to eradicate the community or the future communities of slavery and concubinage.” This is simply not true. As I stated in my other article, Islam is the ONLY religion which made expiation of sins achievable through freeing of slaves. See Quran verses 90:13, 5:89, 58:03, 9:60, 2:177, 24:33, and 4:92. Islam did not abolish slavery by Emancipation Proclamation but the result of these Quranic verses were such that within a short period of time, according to some Muslim scholars, slavery had been limited to POWs only, who had the right to be ransomed by others or buy their own freedom by working elsewhere part-time or starting a business. Unlike in the US, slaves in Arabia, both male and female, could marry free men/women, and the children of slaves were always born in freedom.

        Now the question of applicability of Quranic laws in today’s circumstances. You stated, “They were moral according to the Prophet himself. Whether or not we should be allowed to bring the practices back is only a matter of ijtihad.”

        If you are going by the interpretation of strict traditionalists, such as Maududi, they are of the view that slavery was limited to POWs and the freeing of prisoners had to be governed by treaties or their absence thereof [Prophet Muhammad did free many POWs without a treaty or ransom]. In the absence of such treaties and where the enemy makes no effort to ransom their captives, the POWs can be considered as “slaves,” and the same Quranic rules will apply. But Muslim scholars say that since all Muslim countries have now agreed to Geneva Conventions and the return of POWs under treaty obligations, slavery is forever abolished. Muslim modernists, on the other hand, would simply argue that these issues are not even worthy of discussion, relevant Quranic laws are of historical interest only, as they applied to conditions which no longer exist, thanks to Islam’s encouragement to free slaves in order have sins forgiven.

        Whether you “buy” these explanations are not, makes no difference. For most Muslims, Prophet Muhammad’s personal sex life, which always seems to instil some kind of sexual jealousy among critics of Islam, does not diminish his stature as a very spiritual man, who spent most of his time praying and attending to other people’s needs. If you judge by the results of his teachings, Muslims are the most “monogamous” people on the face of this earth! Most Muslims do NOT have concubines but most non-Muslim Frenchmen do. Most Muslims would have sex with only one partner–their spouse. By allowing polygamy but punishing fornication and adultery, Islam has created more stable societies as far as family life is concerned. Concubinage in early Islam was far superior to current practice of serial monogamy, in which the Western male exercises hissexualityon several girls before deciding to settle with one. Concubines had more rights than so-called girl-friends who end up far poorer andlonelierin old age.

        ________________________________

  2. charmedshiva January 2, 2013 at 5:41 am Reply

    No, I am not asking why the Prophet didn’t become “asexual” and angelic. First of all, Islam regards him to be the best of all creation, so he is above all angels in that respect. Expectation being at its highest is only REQUIRED. Secondly, I do not see asexuality as something necessary to fulfill this high degree and my problems with this issue and many others in Islam has nothing to do with asexuality.

    Apparently you didn’t get my point. Religion, a doctrine of morality, sets the parameters for which culture is allowed to develop within. What it sets as laws of abidance and what it allows by remaining silent or even propagating are what it sees as the moral parameters for people to follow. This is where it becomes absurd to justify Islamic practices by citing “the culture of that time.” Islam justifies Islamic practices; it is not “7th century culture” that makes them appropriate. This is the difference between 1. simply putting matters into context and 2. using culture to JUSTIFY something. Simply contextualizing something doesn’t necessitate the justification of that something as moral.

    If we take a purely secular perspective, then sure, the story becomes clear. In that sense, religion is just a human construct of personal and cultural morals. Humans develop in understanding over time, change their ideas over time, and change their sense of morality over time. Thus, religion as revealed and practiced 1,400 years ago or 5,000 years ago isn’t always going to be relevant to people’s understanding of morality today. Flaws are flaws and we change our flawed behavior over time; and different people, as a result of human thought and imperfection, view flaws differently. It doesn’t mean anything for you to take a secular perspective on the evolving morality of people while accepting Islam and its prophets as perfectly moral doctrines of conduct.

    That’s right, a religion can accept within it many different cultures. As I said, religion sets parameters; and like you mention, religion is a ‘channel’ for cultures to develop in and evolve within. It is the moral code which dictates what parts of culture are allowed. It is false when you say religion doesn’t “steer the society in a particular direction.” That is false. Religion does steer people in a particular direction because that is religion’s very basic claim: it is the correct path which leads to the correct direction.

    I don’t see that there is any “current ideology” that is “ideal,” just as there is no “old ideology” that is “ideal.” I accept that humans evolve over time. Religion is what claims to be an ideal doctrine. I have no problem admitting that people in today’s world, even if they are highly regarded and liberal, can be and often are seriously wrong sometimes. Why religious folk don’t take the same objective approach to looking at their own religious figures instead of assuming that there MUST be an excuse for their controversial conduct that justifies them, is a whole another story. THAT is bias; innately irrational.

    “He didn’t do anything different than Thomas Jefferson, twelve hundred years later!” is a classical example of fallacy. The argument is not that no one else in the world did troubling things. Others, many hundred or thousands of years later repeating a behavior does not make it any more just than it was when it was originally practiced. In no way whatsoever does the imperfection of later generations, or the imperfection of the non-religious, justify the certain troublesome practices within Islam.

    I never once mentioned fate as an excuse for any code of conduct.You seem to enjoy shoving irrational perspectives down my throat and making many assumptions about me. There is a huge difference between gifting off women and keeping them as concubines, and marrying a woman by an arranged marriage. I have problems with blind arranged marriage as well. Secondly, objectifying women as “gifts” that can be sent off to men and subsequently making them your sex slaves is not comparable to the joining of hands in a formal marriage by arrangement. (FYI, not all arranged marriages are blind.)

    The fact that the Prophet could have had many more female slaves and chose not to shows absolutely nothing of value here. The fact of the matter is that he did have his own and allowed others to their own as well. The fact of the matter is Islam did nothing to reform that part of Arabian culture, except to set slight parameters to an already existing practice, and thus saw it as morally acceptable. The parameters of conduct set by the doctrine of Islam did nothing to reform the understanding that certain parts of Arabian culture were acceptable, yet it reform that about other parts of the same culture.
    One slave, one concubine, and the lack of abolition or the intention of abolition is enough of a matter to take issue with, let alone the many hundreds or thousands of slaves and concubines in society at that time, all allowed at the hands of their Prophet of God.

    Islam setting laws for how you should feed and clothe your slaves is not an excuse for slavery in and of itself. The consent of some people to be concubines doesn’t justify the very practice. The keeping of only a “few” slaves versus the option of many more does absolutely nothing to justify the very practice in and of itself. Allowing slaves to marry and encouraging the expiation of sins by releasing them does nothing to justify the actual practice in and of itself. Islam being the only religion to set parameters for slavery doesn’t do anything to justify slavery in and of itself. I have already seen these apologetics before, many times and by many people. The simple fact is that there is no clear indication from the Prophet that he intended to eliminate slavery. The parameters that Islam set for slavery is used apologetically to assert that Islam intended for it to be eradicated in the future. The fact of the matter is that parameters are parameters, they are not expiation. Allowing Muslims to take POWs into slavery just furthers the practice of slavery. At the very least, it furthers the possibility of slavery as an acceptable practice for the future. If slaves were allowed to “work” their way out of slavery, why not just give them the option of working from the get-go rather then making them slaves? (I can see it coming – the “it might not have been possible at that time” or the “the culture of that day” aplogetics again). A statement like “Islam propagates the freeing of slaves to expiate sins” intrinsically admits that slavery is wrong, yet Islam allowed for the very concept and practice of slavery in and of itself, even to the point that it allowed taking non-slaves (POWs) as slaves. And what must it have been like to be the wife of a man who had a slave girl and a slave man, the slave girl being allowed to marry a free man or have sex with her husband, basically as his sex slave or mistress (because let’s cut the apologetics, that’s what slave concubinage is). Wow, what a moral society.

    Agreeing to Geneva Conventions and interpreting (personal conjecture) that future slavery is disallowed again does nothing to address the moral bankruptcy of slavery during the time of the Prophet, which without a doubt was never abolished. It’s even more problematic to say that “in a short” period of time, slavery was limited to POWs. Well, if Islam was able to accomplish that, then that indicates to me that it was also able to accomplish the abolition of any possible further slavery under Islam. But Islam didn’t accomplish that. Later changes in the perception of repugnance is what abolished new slavery. All of the reasons Muslims bring up to try to justify slavery under Islam only show the reduction and setting of boundaries for slavery. They do not show abolition, nor the intention of abolition. That’s just wishful interpretation.

    “Islam did not abolish slavery by Emancipation . . . .”
    No sir, Islam did not abolish slavery. Period.

    Yeah, morals develop over time. I don’t disparage anyone who lived in and adopted the despicable aspects of their living culture. That’s the darkness they lived in; that’s all they knew. They hadn’t developed yet. So no, I’m not expecting that the Prophet Muhammad be exactly like Western liberals today. I simply expect that a prophet of God would be soundly just enough to create a moral code that served all times well, that serves rationality well, that serves human nature well, and that serves development well. I don’t see that with these primitive, tribal, and underdeveloped practices allowed in Islam under the false banner of culture and necessity. Moral code from the Ultimate Divine transcends human culture. Period.
    If Islam does that, then I haven’t yet seen how. Perhaps someday I will. The apologetics the world of questioners receives doesn’t yet show us how.

    And wow, the fact that you think those who raise issue to Islamic practices are products of “sexual jealousy” is utterly insulting, despicable, and only shows the lack of true content within your argument.

    “Most non-Muslim frenchmen do.” Excuse me? Prove that. The issue was never monogamy vs. polygamy, that’s firstly. Secondly as I stated many times, the faults or propagation of a practice or similar practices in later societies, by different people, does NOT justify it’s practice in Islam during the the 7th century. Your perception of dating is utterly ridiculous and purely influenced by the guilt-tripping and accusatory language of Muslim clerics. The doctrinal mentality does that to people – effectively closing their eyes to reality. Prove that Islam really did create “more stable societies as far as family life is concerned.” Prove it. You can’t That’s just your claim as a result of being convinced of the doctrine of Islam. That’s it. And what exactly is so much more moral about having 4 wives and an open slate of multiple concubines, all of whom you can terminate relations with at any time upon call, than dating one or two girls, separately and seriously, before settling once and for all with a single person? What’s more moral about Islam’s version?
    What my parents did (they were introduced by mutual friends, dated for 9 months before getting married, and since been successfully married; both were each other’s first partners btw) is unIslamic, yet I don’t see how the Islamic parameters are necessarily any better than what they did. It’s only to the biased mind that they are. Concubines having “more rights” than girlfriends is a really childish way of justifying concubinage. The two are different concepts altogether. We don’t compare a consensual, non-marital and monogamous relationship to Islamic sexual concubinage, in multiples, while married to multiple formal wives of whom you’ve put an artificial limit to. Yeah, because limited wives to 4 and then saying hey, go have an unlimited number of concubines… Oh yeah, that totally makes sense.

    Everyone knows the real purpose of concubinage: sex partners. Keep trying to justify that with apologetics. It’s okay lol.

    • sincereadvisor January 3, 2013 at 6:33 am Reply

      I am not sure where you read that Prophet Muhammad was the “best of creation,” but that it is perhaps someone’s opinion and not an article of faith.  Islam does have a concept of mankind as “ashraf-ul-makhlooqat,”  [Superior among those created] but that can be interpreted in a variety of different ways, and my own personal understanding is that it means superior among those created on earth.  Quran has made it very clear that man, in general, was created (morally and intellectually) “weak.” There is also one Hadith in which Prophet Muhammad himself was quoted as saying that his instructions on religion should be followed but not necessarily on other matters, because, after all, he’s a human being who can make mistakes. There is another Hadith in which the Prophet said that had God intended to create perfect human beings, He would have done so.  And if all mankind suddenly stops committing sins, God would wipe them out and create other beings who would!  So nowhere in Quran or Hadith the idea of perfect human beings exist.  Muslims do however claim that the Prophet was “innocent,” who may have made many mistakes, but he intentionally did not commit sins.    But to get to your point right away, I can think of hundred different things that the Prophet of Islam or any other Prophet should have done but didn’t.  I can also think of at least a thousand things that I should have or could have done but failed, one of which could be convincing you!.  You see, life is not about what someone couldn’t accomplish but what he or she did accomplish. That’s a better way to judge a person.  And Prophet Muhammad’s accomplishments are so many that even non-Muslim historians give him high credit.    I respectfully disagree with your statement that religion “sets the parameters for which culture is allowed to develop within.”  Religion does establish ‘some’ limits [called Hudood in Islam] but those limits are like light houses in a vast ocean of culture with its own barriers and rivers that merge into it.  I am sure you know that religion often allows freedoms which culture or society may not.  And the opposite is also true. The reality is far more complex, and it’s not as clear-cut as you think it is.      The concept behind limits (hudood) is exactly what it suggests–limits, which should not be crossed.  For example, Islam allows a man to have four wives, but it is not “steering” him in that direction.  If that were so, most Muslim males would have had multiple wives. But, as I pointed our earlier, that is simply not the case.  Whereas an average non-Muslim American male has 5 or 6 sexual partners in a lifetime, I would guess that 90 to 95% of Muslim males would have only one.  Why is that so?  That’s because the driving force in this case is culture, not religion.    You claim that mankind has (intellectually) evolved? In what way?  Are today’s wars any less brutal? Are people less corrupt than they were 1500 years ago? You, I am sure, will claim that women are better off today. Really?  The way I see it, women are now working AND still doing house chores.  Most are treated as sexual objects, used and cast aside like a napkin (until they are much older and then suddenly acquire some respectability). I can go on and on.  The more the world changes, the more it stays the same. Yeah, you acquire freedom here and there but you also lose some.     Since morality is all relative, what’s your frame of reference, if not modern liberalism?  You keep denying that you are not using it as your criteria, but what other moral philosophy do you have to judge or compare Islam with?  Christianity, Hinduism, Judaism? Buddhism?  There must be some moral code that is widely accepted that you can put forward.  Otherwise, you can keep arguing that this or that is not justified, but under what or by what criterion?     As I stated earlier, Prophet Muhammad did not purchase Maria.  He received her as a “gift.” Now I would like to know, how many men on this planet would receive the gift of a beautiful woman on their door and would send her away, especially when society and law permitted such a thing?  You would have to be totally impotent to say no.  As I stated earlier, slaves in those days accepted their role and consented just as your granny or great granny (okay, not your mother) did, without knowing a thing about your grand-daddy or great-grand-daddy.  You say that it’s different, but in real practical terms, it’s really not that much different, especially when you consider that in old Hinduism and Christianity, women couldn’t divorce.  What’s more important is how the relationship worked out.  From all accounts, Prophet Muhammad had a good, loving relationship with Maria and his other wives.  So what’s the problem? Muslims are not saying that one should emulate the Prophet in this regard and have concubines.  They are smart enough to know that having a concubine was acceptable in the early days of Islam but society has changed. And there is no reason to pass judgment on things of the past, because each age has its own social mores, within the confines of religion, by which a person should be judged.     You are mistaken about a few facts.  Slavery didn’t always mean sex.  Slaves were often just servants or maids. A man could own a female slave and have sex with her if she was single. If she gave birth, then both she and the child became free automatically.  The child would have full inheritance rights. But if the slave was married, either to another slave or to a free person, the slave master could not have sex with that person.  A male slave could marry a free woman.  Quran does not even use the word “slave” (abd) for such people.  It uses the term “a person that your right hand possesses.” As I stated earlier, a slave could always buy his/her freedom.   I mentioned Thomas Jefferson only to point out the hypocrisy of liberal elite who have little or no problem with Jefferson sleeping with Sally Hemings, his slave, but condemn Prophet Muhammad for the same.  Be honest and tell me, how many times have you raised this issue with Americans? Should this infraction, in your eyes, force Americans to reject the Declaration of Independence or belittle his other accomplishments?  Now, I know, you will say that you don’t want to discuss Jefferson and would rather focus on Prophet Muhammad.  And that’s because he’s your target and Jefferson is not.  Your moral indignation, in this case, is borne of extreme prejudice.   Yes, Islam has created more stable societies!  And yes in France, lots of men have mistresses.  If you don’t want to believe it, then don’t.  Divorce rate in Muslim countries and even among Muslims living in the West, is far less!  Are you denying it? Do Muslims have a problem with teenage pregnancy? Rarely. Where do you find the highest percentage of teetotalers? In Muslim countries? Where do you see fewest cases of AIDS?  In Muslim countries.  Where do you find the highest percentage of two-parent homes? In Muslim countries.  You have to be totally blind not to see it.  If you think that religion has steered these things then by your own logic, Islam is a great religion and you must embrace it immediately!

       I learned long time ago, that the key to understanding is always through the heart.  When you have love and sympathy in your heart, you will look at Prophet Muhammad from a positive perspective.  When your heart is straitened, you will keep trying to dig up the dirt on him, as that would give you the justifications that you are seeking to reject him.  And I would venture to say that it’s not Prophet Muhammad that you dislike, it’s Muslims–a particular brand of Muslims that you’ve come across, who have disappointed you.  Now isn’t that the truth? 

      ________________________________

  3. Pierre Antonious February 12, 2013 at 5:49 pm Reply

    Wow. Great argument. But I have to say from a bias point of view. What is evident is that “sinceradvisor” seems to be a devout Muslim believer by the way in which the argument is presented. Using Thomas Jefferson, The US, French Society. Your mixing governments, cultures and random individuals to scrutinize cases of immorality in history. :Charmedsiva” said it well , “A prophet’s moral code should transcend culture. He will accept that which is moral and reject that which isn’t,”

    As far as Abraham, the point of the New Testament was to denounce such practices and acts. With the coming of Jesus, a messenger. Maybe Islam, needs another prophet to transition them into a higher moral standard and official outlaw these acts.

    And if culture was the excuse, why didn’t Jesus who was ostensibly a prophet partake in these activities. The mere fact that Jesus didn’t have any concubines or slaves should be the strongest avocation of this… along with verses denouncing them.

    Important thing here, is ignore individuals, sects etc. Just focus on religious text (holy books) and scriptures , and prophets. to get somewhere. And lastly reflect on the human nature of emotions and “logos”, that hasn’t changed which these texts are meant to govern enhance and preserve. Do the commandments make your life and anyone’s life better as a universal law.

    • sincereadvisor February 13, 2013 at 5:10 am Reply

      Yes, I am a Muslim and I wish I was “devout,” but I am not worthy of that label. It seems to me that you are the biased one for rejecting my argument just because I am a Muslim. Isn’t that so?

      Prophet Muhammad’s moral code did and does transcend cultures, and that is why you still find so many people from diverse cultures embracing Islam. If his teachings were obsolete or ethnocentric, why would anyone convert to Islam? However, you need to separate culture from morality. The two are very different, as both change over time but are not always in sync with each other.

      Please tell me where the New Testament denounces Abraham? Jesus said clearly, ” Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Now, I know that Christians try to come up with all kinds of esoteric meanings, because they would rather not believe this (thanks to St. Paul’s teachings), but the meaning is obvious. You are confusing Paul’s teachings with those of Jesus.

      You also do not explain why you wish to compartmentalize religion, just so that you can attack it more easily? As I asked Charmedshiva, what’s your frame of reference? Modern day liberalism, other religions that you find superior? You need to be ready to defend what you believe in. Otherwise, your assertions have to be rejected.

      The few laws of Islam have made life better! Where do you find the largest group of monogamists (people who’ve had only one sexual partner in a lifetime), teetotallers, and non-gamblers? Where do you find nations with lowest drug-use, cases of venereal diseases, and AIDS? And where do you see societies with fewest rapes, divorces, and children with single parents? It’s Muslims and Muslim nations. Islam has made life better for billions. And that is why Islam is still growing while other religions are shrinking. No matter what you think of Prophet’s Muhammad’s personal life, you’ll have to admit that he made a huge difference in the life of billions of people, and mostly for the good of this world.

  4. Peter A. February 13, 2013 at 7:24 am Reply

    Firstly, I’ll take back accusing you of being a devout muslim which wrongfully ties you into being such a strong believer, entrenched in the idea of defending the religion by any means to earn yourself the upmost reward for unflinching faith.

    Secondly, you’re using people again in your argument, average sheep that can be herded in every way which direction, there are many groups of people with many different beliefs, both of knowledge and imagination, both moral and immoral , plausible and despicable. Straight to the texts, not of opinion or controversial interpretations of them, many comprised of prudent “worldy” gains, many bias, many analytically inaccurate, when at the end, words are words. Rather on must simply put the text itself into context, and remain conscious of how it can be taken out of context. But even then, only to analyze the effect it has on groups and societies. And why? According to the text, do they have ample enough justification for the belief/act.

    Why do you assume that “moderate day liberalism” is the source of my/our comments and criticism? When in fact, it is simply ethics, human decency like when the other party says ” That’s not a danger to the institution of marriage and the mental health of women in society? Really?”.

    And note, I don’t have any affiliation with them, I just know where they’re coming from. To me, its simply looking at things through “logos”, peace and goodness for all mankind. So when something so sinister sticks out , no matter the time and culture. It is looked at as immoral, from the heart and soul.

    And, having a couple of wives , a toy on the side , and not having to take care of the kids a few years is a pretty “liberal” life to me)

    I did’nt mean Jesus denounces Abraham himself – but his prior teachings, customs, moral laws. I mean thats the spiritual message of the New Test. I’m sure your familiar with the whole , I told you eye for an eye before, now I’m telling you to turn the other cheek. Mathew Ch. 5 is essentially a whole chapter denouncing “old teachings” in light of a higher standard of ethics for believers. Enlightening those “astray” and of old time.

    Just an example:

    “Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not commit adultery:

    28 But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart.”

    As far as Muhammed, Yes he has made a great influence on the world, especially the tribes of the Arabian Peninsula. Again the people, the people. One could just say this:

    Who was to say they wouldn’t have been better off with another religion? The truth is we don’t know but have an idea that another religion would’ve swept them . And then we would fairly have to look at the negative effects of Islam, and you don’t want to bring up Militant Islamic Fundamentalism threatening a list of African and Middle Eastern Countries, while also threatening the stability of a handful of other foreign countries. BUT we should not talk about them, or that. For that could be the mistake of men and the manipulation of religious text for selfish gains. Seriously. Mind Travel.

    • sincereadvisor February 14, 2013 at 4:19 am Reply

      I do not mind being “accused” of being “devout;” it’s just that given my weaknesses, moral and physical frailties, I cannot claim to be as such. However, I do believe in my religion and will defend it the way I understand it. Otherwise, why would I have even created this web site?

      You lost me in your second paragraph. I think you need to be bit more coherent in expressing your opinions [sorry, just a friendly piece of advice]. But I think I got the gist of it. You are trying to argue from a position of superiority, looking down upon the “sheeple” just because they have beliefs, contrary to yours, which you think they are trying to impose on others. You are also assuming that “ethics” and “human decency” are universal values which you have fully grasped but the religiously minded are somehow oblivious to it. In short, you are painting with a very broad brush, and that’s where you are totally wrong. We are all products of our own cultures, moral philosophies, and politics, which also plays a big role in shaping our understanding and tolerance of other faiths and cultures. It’s very easy to look down upon other religions and cultures. I must hastily add that you are not the only one who is guilty of this. It requires friendship with people of other faiths to fully comprehend the varieties of human experiences.

      Justification of one’s beliefs, like all other intangible things, comes from three things: Trust, Consistency and Personal Experience. When people trust the sources through which they have received the information, the information is consistent and they have experienced it within themselves then belief becomes possible and real. When one of the three things becomes suspect or is removed, the belief begins to fall apart. That is why some religions succeed and others fail. Atheists who demand incontrovertible evidence for every belief fail to recognize that 95% of reality that we experience as human beings is based on ‘a posteriori’ knowledge.

      I meant “modern-day liberalism” not “moderate day liberalism.” 🙂

      If you read that Biblical quote again, you will realize that Jesus is taking a much harsher approach than the Old Testament. He is NOT saying that adultery is forgivable. He’s suggesting that even if you’ve committed adultery in your heart [haven’t we all?], by golly, you’ve done it already [and you deserve the same punishment]! I know, like other Christians, you will try to explain it away through some esoteric meaning, but the passage is clear. On the other hand, Islam does not punish you for your bad thoughts; in fact, it rewards you for not acting upon them. Similarly, in Christianity, the wages of sin–even the smallest of sin–is death, and if it weren’t for the blood-sacrifice of Jesus Christ, not a single soul would have entered Paradise. Islam has no such irrational beliefs and says that God can forgive any and all sins through the simple act of repentance and making amends. So, if you were somehow trying to present the Christian God as more merciful and rational, that’s not case at all.

      I would also argue that Islam is the best thing that ever happened to Christianity. It’s due to the influence of Islamic philosophers that medieval Europe moderated Christianity. From day one, Islam proclaimed itself to be a religion for the whole world, which is hard to believe considering the backward nature of Arabia in those days. Your point that there could have been other religions is rather moot because there have been new religions, most of which didn’t last very long.

  5. Peter A. February 14, 2013 at 6:07 am Reply

    I have muslim firends, and I’ve experienced both sides of them. The good and the bad. I actually value the good in them more, but recognize the controversy in the texts and realize where twisted shit comes from, come on man, nipple suckling to allow a man and women to be alone together, Muhammad’s 6 yr old wife, that allegedly was 9, Like seriously? Concubines, slavery trade, jizya and the inequality of others, virgins as rewards in heaven to martyrs. 7 wives, a prophet who warred. I looked at a couple other posts, everyone is pointing the most obvious of the immoral, but you dont see how the texts interpret to that. Not saying that thats what you believe or most muslims believe, but that the text carry immorality if resorted to. My point was not that Christianity was more moderate, it’s not. It’s teachings strive for a higher level of virtue. that is spirituality , not actions but thoughts, mentatlity. I obviously know that the verse means and thats it allowing either or. I’m really questioning how you totally missed my points, passed the typos and poor sentence structure. Anyway, keep thinking evil thoughts – its good for you.

    • sincereadvisor February 15, 2013 at 3:56 am Reply

      For you is your religion, and for me is my religion

  6. Akritas February 14, 2013 at 2:59 pm Reply

    This is a very interesting and convincing article.
    I am sad that many people do not understand the difference between understanding what happened (factually) and condoning/condemning what happened.

    Anyway, your explanation is very plausible. I hope we will find more evidence on Muqawqis to prove it scientifically.

  7. Peter A. February 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm Reply

    We understand the difference and also believe it to be true and presented thoroughly. Great, now we move on to discuss the happenings in light of morality. Can we do that? We are talking about a prophet here.

  8. Peter A. February 16, 2013 at 5:01 pm Reply

    @sincereadvisor This is true. I do still believe in the good that comes out of both religions as a whole. But I’m not afraid to condemn the bad that lurks. Peace.

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