The Qur’an, read judiciously alongside later histories, suggests that during Muhammad’s lifetime, Islam spread peacefully in the major cities of Western Arabia. The soft power of the Qur’an’s spiritual message has typically been underestimated in most treatments of this period. The image of Muhammad and very early Islam that emerges from a careful reading of the Qur’an on peace-related themes contradicts not only widely held Western views but even much of the later Muslim historiographical tradition. This finding should come as no surprise. Life in medieval feudal societies did not encourage pacific theologies, and Muslims in later empires lost touch with the realities of the early seventh century. What if we read Jesus’s life and thought only through the lens of Pope Urban II, who launched the sanguinary Crusades in the Holy Land with the cry, “God wills it!”?
Juan Cole (2018) Muhammad: Prophet of Peace Amid the Clash of Empires. Hachette UK.
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