RL preface to Lazar’s post: Elias Bickerman, one of the great historians of the last century wrote the following:
But the creators of Islam ignore the controversial aspects of Islamic history.The documentary covers Muhammad’s time as an arbitrator in Medina, siege of Mecca, and focuses on his pardoning of the defeated Meccans.
Muhammad’s early followers are presented as poor victims of pagan Meccan persecution. There is no mention of the Muslim’s attacks on Meccan caravans as a means of subsistence, drawing the Meccan attack. The battles between Muhammad and Mecca are presented as a struggle between a peaceful, innocent montheistic movement and a pagan power attempting to silence them.
Discussing the victory of Muhammad over the Meccan tribes, one of the experts says:
“In the very founding of the religion, one finds episodes of great generosity, often extraordinary acts of kindness, mercy.”
Muhammad’s brutal treatment of Arabia’s Jewish tribes is totally omitted. There were three major Jewish tribes in Medina (Yathrib) in Muhammad’s day. After the battle of Badr (624), the Banu Qainuqa tribe was expelled from Medina. A similar fate awaited the Banu Nadir tribe after the battle of Uhud (625). They were accused of plotting to kill Muhammad and cooperating with his enemies. The tribe escaped to the Jewish oasis of Khaybar, where they joined with the Meccans in besieging Muhammad in Medina. After his victory, Muhammad sent a delegation to the Nadir chief Yusayr ibn Zarim asking him to a meeting where they could work out an alliance. After a fight along the way, Muhammad’s messengers fell upon the Jewish chieftains and killed 29 of the 30 men.
The Banu Nadir tribe came to a violent end under Muhammad. After the battle of Khaybar in 629, Muhammad had all the Banu Nadir men beheaded and the women taken by the Muslim men. According to the Muslim historian Ibn Ishaq, Muhammad ordered the torture of Banu Nadir treasurer Kinana ibn al-Rabi, who knew the whereabouts of a certain treasure. Al-Rabi was then beheaded, and Muhammad took his widow Safiyya as a wife.
After the battle of the Trench in 627, the powerful Jewish Banu Qurayza tribe fell under Muhammad’s sword. The men who would not convert were beheaded, the women and children enslaved (Sunan Abu Dawud- Book 38, Number 4390).
As one of the featured experts explains,
“The idea that Muslims were going across the world saying, ‘Convert, or die,’ is really not accurate-not at all.”
The slant of the documentary is similarly evident in the treatment of the Dome of the Rock. The city of Jerusalem is described as holy to Christians and Jews, but the Temple Mount is not. But the expert’s enthusiasm for the mosque is overt-
“What’s extraordinary about the Dome of the Rock is how perfect it is.”
The closest mention of the site’s importance to Judaism is a mention that “it is holy to Abraham and Isaac”. Beyond that, the construction of a mosque on another religion’s holiest site is described only in glowing terms-like ‘perfect’.
Islam drives home the message in the final segment. The series finishes thus:
Islam and Western civilization have the same roots…in the fertile crescent, the monotheism of the Jews and Christians, the mutual culture of the ancient Greeks. The two traditions are kindred spirits- alike, yet very different…”
The PBS website has a more balanced view of Islamic history, but the documentary reached far more people.
The documentary, through an uncritical view of the past, uses history to make a case for how its creators want the West to behave and think today.