In recent years, Islamists have been promoting a hoax in order to make Islam appear modern and progressive to the un-indoctrinated. It began with a spurious translation by Syed F.H. Faizi of the famous Last Sermon of Mohammad. His version (oddly, there are more than one) is used today to cast Islam as a universal, peaceful faith, instead ofâ€”as critics argueâ€”a violent, deceitful, Arab-centric ideology used by powerful clerics to control the masses.
- Phyllis CheslerÂ wrote yesterday:Â American Apostates from Islam Affirm Their Freedom…
- Celebrating Eid in the Netherlands/free taxi rides for ramadan
- Al-Jazeera: ‘Obama Charts New World Order’ . . ./for al Jizz Obama represents ‘The World’ instead of ‘The United States’ . . .
- 9 Kosovar Rebels Charged with Killing 80 Serbs ‘Protected’ by UN
Faizi’s translation of the sermon (khutba) is rather long, but the following key paragraph presses the right progressive buttons:
“All mankind is from Adam and Eve, an Arab has no superiority over a non-Arab nor a non-Arab has any superiority over an Arab; also a white has no superiority over a black nor a black has any superiority over white except by piety and good action. Learn that every Muslim is a brother to every Muslim and that the Muslims constitute one brotherhood. Nothing shall be legitimate to a Muslim which belongs to a fellow Muslim unless it was given freely and willingly. Do not, therefore, do injustice to yourselves. “
You might think this sounds very modern. Did Arabs use black and white in distinctly racial terms? Did Arabs call themselves Arab? Didn’t western orientalists first use Arab to describe a diverse collection of linguistically-related people? Is this sermon what professional anti-racists to alienated prisoners say gives Islam its street credentials? By nature, translations are problematic. A shade of meaning can be impossible to capture. But among translators, only Faizi employs black and white, and he admits his sources are dubious, as we shall see.
The Faizi translation and adjoining commentary is cut and pasted on Islamic websites across the Internet. Unlike most Islamic primary and respected secondary texts, virtually no root source is given. Very strange, you might think; certainly this sermon is in an authenticated hadith (traditional story of Muhammad) collection or the Sira (biography of Muhammad by Ibn Ishaq) if not in the Koran. Why wouldn’t it be sourced?
I finally tracked down the origin of the translation from a cryptic “Faizi 145” referenceâ€”the only one among dozens of postings I checked. Searching an online bookstore, I guessed this must be S.F.H. Faizi, an Indian, later Pakistani, Islamist who wrote “The Sermons of the Prophet,” first published in 1991. I ordered it. I was right; the sermon is indeed on page 145, translated as “The Farewell Pilgrimage Address.” Yet, even Faizi does not provide his source. Highly unusual, considering how popular this version is with modern Muslims.
As close to a source Faizi gives us is in the introduction to Sermons. He writes:
“This book is a collection of some of the selected sermons of the Holy Prophet which include long as well short ones as the situation demanded. They were not available in the form of KhutbasÂ but have been derived from various books of Ahadith and history. It is only recently that some of these have appeared in book-forms along withoriginal texts and translation in Urdu; but the authenticity of the texts thereof is still doubted by ulema. 0n English language, they are hardly available. So an attempt has been made not only to have them translated in English but also to find out circumstances under which they were delivered so that their delivery date could be ascertained and an elucidation made thereof. How far I have succeeded in my undertaking rests to be adjudged by the readers. Any suggestion or comment shall, however be welcomed to improve upon it.” (emphasis added)
In other words, Faizi “derived” sermons from various obscure, unnamed books rejected by the ulema (scholarly Muslim clerics), and translated them into English. Without core sources, Faizi has petitioned his readers to help. As a reader of Faizi, I’m happy try. I’ll be adjudged by the readers.
My theory: It is well known that many bogus religious works were produced on the periphery of Islamic civilization in places like India. Even the caliphate (world Islamic government) was known to fabricate ahadith to further political aims. For more than three centuries while Britain ruled India, anti-colonial Indians, including Muslims, tried to undermine the racial, ethnic and caste systems that oppressed them. During this era black/white racial dualism and Arab identity were introduced into English. It is no leap to imagine an inspired anti-colonial Muslim cleric would write a bit of historical fiction to enhance Islam in the service of achieving a practical result. Who in the Raj would know? A complete collection of authenticated ahadith was as rare as a magic carpet in colonial India. It wouldn’t be the first phony Islamic tract; not by a long shot. Maybe our cleric even thought, “Well, if I must be Muslim (apostates are killed), then I’ll make Islam my way” â€“the old “change from the inside” strategy at work.
In lieu of hard evidence, I believe this scenario is more plausible than the fish tales Islamists routinely employ to explain ahadith. The Faizi version of the Last Sermon is not endorsed by either the Sunni or Shi’a ulemas, who each refer to different “authentic” sources. For centuries, the Sunni ulema has endorsed several sermon fragments diffused across authenticated hadith collections, most notably in Sahih al-Bukhari and Sahih Muslim. Today though, the dubious Faizi translation is the overwhelming choice for English Islamic websites great and small. It seems to have gone viral, you might say. Other versions do not mention race at all. The relevant section in one Sunni version reads:
“You know that every Muslim is the brother of another Muslim. You are all equal. Nobody has superiority over other except by piety and good action.”
A well-known convert to Islam, Nuh Ha Mim Keller, translated the passage as:
“O people, your Lord is One, and your father is one: all of you are from Adam, and Adam was from the ground. The noblest of you in Allah’s sight is the most godfearing: Arab has no merit over non-Arab other than godfearingness. Have I given the message? â€” O Allah, be my witness.”
Oddly, Keller’s is accompanied by commentary by a Pakistani Canadian Syed Mumtaz Ali, who borrows from Faizi without credit to explain Keller’s!
The Last Sermon is arguably a decline from Saint Paul’s letter to a nascent Christian community 600 years earlier:
“There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.”(Galatians 3:28)
The pagan-born Muhammad likely paraphrased Paul, considering the obvious influence Christianity and Judaism had on Islam. To see how individual words are important to translations, we could imagine if a scholar reinvented Paul, as Faizi has done with Muhammad:
“There is neither black nor white, rich nor poor, strong nor weak, for all are equal in Christ Jesus. If you have Christ, you have God’s promise of eternal social justice.”
I suspect this translation would be very popular with progressives, yet it still is quite true to the original, at least in spirit. But was Faizi’s? Not if you compare it to other translations.
The Shi’a English translation also makes suspect use the terms black, white and Arab. The etymology of black/white racial dualism dates to the sixteenth century, and no tribe was named Arab in the time of Muhammad. The closest the Koran comes is using Arab to disparage a tribe that resisted Muhammad, “al’a’rabu asaddu kufran wa nifaqan” meaning, “the Bedouin are the worst in disbelief and hypocrisy.” The relevant Shi’a passage:
“Oh people! Know that Allah has assigned him (Ali) as a guardian and a leader for you, whose obedience is obligatory for the immigrants, the helpers, and those who follow them in goodness, and for everyone, whether nomad or city resident, Arab or non-Arab, free or slave, young or old, white or black, and for every monotheist. His (Ali’s) decree is to be carried out, his saying is sanctioned as law, and his command is effective.”
The Shi’a version doesn’t quite hit the progressive notes Faizi does, as it accepts without comment the hierarchy of classes that existed in the age of Muhammad. Traditional Shi’a sources for the Last Sermon, other than the Koran, are also different from the Sunni.
Historically, contention between the Sunni and Shi’a versions is not about equality at all. It revolves around what two “weighty things” Muhammad left to his followers. Sunnis contend that he left the Koran and the Sunnah (manners and actions of Muhammad). Shi’as insist Muhammad said he left the Koran and his family (ahl al-bayt) from which the reigning caliph (head of the caliphate) and ruler of the world’s Muslims (ummah) was always to be selected. This difference led directly to the split in Islam upon Muhammad’s death in 632 A.D.
For many moderate Muslims, the solution to the schism is to dispense with the disturbing ahadith and accept Koran alone. But “Koran-only” Muslims still must confront horrendous parts of the Koran itself, and the emptiness ahadith previously filled, albeit incompetently. The Koran by itself is a confusing, incomplete basis for a faith. Should the ulema grant themselves artistic license to replace the old ahadith with new rational ahadith? Do for the Koran what the Talmud does for the Torah?
So, how did Faizi derive his Sermons? Did he invent phrases whole cloth? Were his uncertain sources in Urdu? Since he was Pakistani, could he have used Ahmadi texts? That would be a twist, since Ahmadi Muslims are routinely murdered as apostates in the Muslim world, including their native Pakistan. It appears Faizi mixed modern civil rights law into his Last Sermon. While Fitzgerald made loose translation of secular poetry beautiful in Rubaiyat, with religious doctrine, it’s not so much.
No doubt the Faizi translation is inspiring to a young multicultural idealist alien to earlier religious tenets like Paul’s “neither Jew nor Greek” sermon. The difference lay in the small type. In Christianity, while Paul’s sermon may not be truly universal because it urges accepting Jesus, God judges in the afterlife. On Earth, man has free will. Islam, in contrast, supplies a legal framework (sharia) for theocratic rulers to ensure Muslims remain superior to non-believers. Islam is mandatory for a child of a Muslim and for anyone who earnestly recites the shahadaâ€” “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is his messenger.” This mandate clearly distorts a believer’s deepest feelings about God and religionâ€”faith. For this reason, Islam is often said to be more an ideology than a faith. For Islam to succeed, Muslims don’t have to be spiritually content, just obedient.
Although the secular left and Muslims share little in practice, they each share a claim to represent the little guyâ€”the poor and oppressed. While there is certainly a partial truth to this, it is neither unique nor central to Islam. The reality is Muhammad was never poor, nor from a persecuted tribe. He was from the noblest tribe, the Quraysh. At the time of his death, his closest followersâ€”also from his tribeâ€”were fabulously wealthy (except possibly Ali), fat on the booty stolen in attacks on non-Muslim merchant caravans. Islam, compared to other religions, came to the aid of the huddled masses late with meager offerings. Through centuries of massaging the message of the messenger, talented poets, artists and philosophers squeezed water from Islamic stones because they either paid lip service to Islam, or the ulema issued a death fatwa.
Ending belief inequality, such as Islamic supremacy, was once a major goal for the left. It has been replaced by a singular focus on ending perceived western racism. Islamists thus exploit Faizi’s translation to manipulate the organized left into an unholy alliance with raw Islamic terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and Hamas to destroy the institutions of western civilization, such as private enterprise, the bourgeoisie, and rights of the individual. While destroying these allegedly racist institutions is an ideological goal of the left, it is merely a hegemonic goal of Islamists, who, as conquerors, simply give them an Islamic makeover. In Islam, private property, classes (including slaves and concubines), and “rights” for dhimmis (subdued Jews and Christians) and women are well defined (Polytheist rights, not so much). For now, a common enemy (democratic, entrepreneurial countries mostly in the west) makes strange bedfellows.
Islamistsâ€”self-proclaimed master manipulatorsâ€”have no illusions about progressive views on feminism, gay rights, animal liberation and the like. If it’s not found in the de facto Islamic canonâ€”the Koran, authenticated ahadith, and Siraâ€”then it’s not permitted. And to the extent that ambiguity exists in the text for left-leaning Muslims to exploitâ€”this path has been shut off by fiat. Contrary to modern assumptions, many modern ideas are not new, even to Islam. Sadly, the doors to innovation (ijtihad) were officially closed long ago by consensus (ijma) of all Islamic schools of law (madhhabs). Islam is therefore not friendly to reinterpretation, and mass communication is making this more so, not less. Technology allows Muslim theocrats and scholars to filter out weak ahadith and attempts by secular Muslims to expand Islam to freedoms Muhammad never contemplated or forbid outright. It’s possible because the ulema have the power to carry out Muhammad’s command never to alter or distort a word of his message.
It possible Faizi convinced himself his translation is authentic, though he admits the ulema does not accept his sources. But why does the ulema promote, if not endorse the Faizi version? Is it a case of sporadic Islamic ecumenicism that includes even avowed racists like the Nation of Islam? Or is it like the Gospel of Barnabas, a sixteenth century Tunisian forgery about an Islamic Jesus, intended to prove to Christian Europe the Bible is corrupt? Or is the ulema attempting to sanitize a cruel and bigoted Muhammad into being a saint after all? Indeed, Muslim bloggers frequently use the Last Sermon (of Faizi) like a trump card to end debates on the long history of Arab supremacy and racism related to Islam. That would put the Faizi version squarely alongside the infamous forged Hitler Diaries “found” in 1983, intended to prove Hitler was in the dark about the Holocaust.
The ulema look away only when Islamic recruitment propaganda like Faizi’s brings new and lapsed Muslims to mosque, drunk on feel good Islam. Sharia apostasy laws keep them in Islam. The religion of Islam should not be confused with defunct classical Islamic civilizationâ€”produced by conquered peoples only halfway in the process of their Islamification.Â The religion of Islam is a set of written documents, not a culture. Islamic doctrine was finalized about two centuries after Muhammad died, when the last authenticated ahadith were recorded. The ulema will not and cannot incorporate pretty Islamic propaganda into Islam, to the dismay of many Muslims.
Islamists market the Last Sermon to the left as the world’s first Charter on Social Justice, reflecting their insecure need to find a Muslim inventor for every major innovation, including the airplane and golf. Yet the version Islamists promote most is a bogus translation that effectively dates to 1991. In the end, it doesn’t matter when Faizi’s Last Sermon was written, or if it is a fraud. The proof is in the headlines. Today, as I write, Hamas killed the leader of a rival jihadist group, a Muslim in Ohio threatened to kill his apostate daughter, the Taliban claimed responsibility for bombing NATO’s Kabul headquarters, and sharia law has failed to deliver equality and accountability to northern Nigeria. Slow dayâ€”is it Ramadan?