People of the Book
Prophet Muhammad’s Encounters With Christians
Author(s): Craig Considine
Reviewed by: Abdur Raheem Kidwai
Reviewed by: Abdur Raheem Kidwai, Aligarh Muslim University, India
Published by: London: Hurst, 2021, 191pp. ISBN: 9781787384712.
Like Craig Considine’s earlier book, The Humanity of Muhammad: A Christian View (2020), his latest book under review stands out as a path-breaking work on several counts: for illustrating the way forward for both Muslims and Christians to promote cordial inter-faith relations, for adducing the commitment of Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon him) to pluralism and for providing a new perspective on studying the Sirah objectively, refreshingly free from the general Western/Orientalist bias against the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him), particularly his stance on dealing with non-Muslims.
Craig Considine, Professor of Sociology, Rice University, Texas, USA, who authored two earlier sociological, analytical works, Muslims in America: Exploring the Issues and Muslims in America: Examining the Facts, made a mark with his book, The Humanity of Muhammad, in which he pays a glowing tribute to the Prophet’s genius, especially his leaderships qualities. More importantly, he brought home “how Prophet Muhammad embraced religious pluralism, envisioned a civic nation, stood for anti-racism, advocated for seeking knowledge, initiated women’s rights and followed the Golden Rule”. In that work, he also highlighted also the Prophet’s preference for non-racism, inclusiveness and diversity and also the commonalities in the teachings of Prophet Jesus and Prophet Muhammad (blessings and peace be upon them). His plea for the spirit of pluralism and peaceful coexistence and for the “dialogue of civilizations” struck a chord in the readers’ hearts.
Some of the above laudable ideas have been developed more vigorously and earnestly in the present work in the overall framework of promoting a better Christian-Muslim understanding while ironing out the conflicts and differences in a civic, gratifying way. It is a sheer delight to note that on the opening page of his work the Prophet (blessings and peace be upon him) is aptly introduced as “an unequalled mercy for all the worlds” with reference to verse 107 of surah al-Anbiya’. The book covers vast ground while weaving together almost all the strands of the Prophet’s interaction with the Christians and the Qur’anic stance on dealing with the Ahl al-Kitab (the people of the Book signifying, in the main, the Jews and Christians). Divided into 6 chapters and appended with Glossary, Chronology and four Appendixes, Chapter 1 delves into the Prophet’s chance meeting with the monk, Bahirah in 582 while chapter 2 focusses on the Prophet’s Ascent and Night Journey and the gradual evolution of the Muslim community. Chapter 3 captures the delightful experience of the