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The Roots of Islam and the letters that never existed part one

Reader comment on item: Friendless in the Middle East
in response to reader comment: The Roots of Islam

Submitted by dhimmi no more (United States), Jan 3, 2012 at 09:59

Hi BB I will try and asnwer all your questions but I will start with the "letters" and what I will tell you is well known by historians of early Islam

>Are the letters of Muhammad to Heraclius and Chosroes II forgeries?

We are also told that letters were sent to a certain chracater by the name of al-Muqawqas the "ruler" of Egypt and another letter to the Negus of Ethiopia

The one I select to go after is the letter to al-Muqawqas as this little saga made it to the Qur'an, and we have enough extant sources and Coptic and Greek sources that can help in telling us about "what really happened" which is what history is all about

Now read with care

1. The Persians invaded Egypt in 616CE and they were defeated by the Byzantines in Upper Mesopotamia in 622CE and they left Egypt in 628-629CE and Cyrus the Melkite Patriarch, the imperial ruler of Egypt, returned to Egypt in 632CE

2. We are told by the Islamic historical tradition that was written in the third century of Islam by non Arabs in distant Mesopotamia that the exegesis of the first few lines of Q66 or surat al-tahreem is about a slave by the name of Mariyya al-Qibtiyya or Mary the Copt and the fact that Muhammad's wives were upset that he had sex with her and that she was part of a gift that was sent to Muhammad by al-Muqawqas the ruler of Egypt and this came about because Muhammad sent a letter to al-Muqawqas asking him to become Muslim and that Muhammad sent him one of those infamous letters of become Muslim or else

3. But if you read Q66 you will not find anything about a letter or a Mariyya al-Qibtiyya or al-Muqawqas and all you will find is Quranic allusions that do not make any sense

4. Now if you turn to Ibn Kathir's exegesis you will read a different explanation for these Quranic allusions in Q66 and that Muhammad ate some spolied honey and he had bad breath (no I'm not kidding you) and this is why his wives were not happy. Well we can stop here and say that the story so far must be bogus

5. But if we accept the story of mariyya al-Qibtiyya and that there was indeed a letter that was sent from Muhammad to al-Muqawqas then we still have serious problems to believe such fable as you will find a more primitive form of the story in Ibn Ishaq's sira and in al-Tabari's exegesis and Tarikh but as time goes by the story expands beyond imagination and later Muslim historians seem to know and to offer more details that you will not find in Ibn Ishaq which makes you wonder that the story is now no more than a qissa (read this as story of fiction) and that nothing is real about it as in we are told that Mary the Copt had a sister by the name of Shirin that was also sent with her but the amazing thing is that the name Shirin is neither an Egyptian or a Coptic name and it is a Persian name which makes you wonder that who ever invented such a name was a Persian. And to make the story more interesting we are told about a castrated Copric slave and gold and honey (the favorite food of Muhammad) and two mules by the names of Daldul and Zarzur!

So you know that it is now really a qissa or story of fiction and no more than is meant to amuse the listener and no more

6. Alfred Butler who was a British historian through his great command of Arabic, Coptic and Greek and Syriac was able to prove that this strange al-Muaqawqas is really Cyrus the Melkite Patriarch and he was also the ruler of Egypt and he was the one that surrendered Egypt to the invading Arabs in 642CE

7. Now we are told by the Muslim historians that the letter to al-Muqawqas was sent to him in 627CE and a trip between Mecca and Alexandria would have takes about 60 days and no more.

8. But the real, issue here is that Cyrus was not in Egypt during the period between 616CE and 632CE and he was not in Egypt in 627CE when the letter was sent!

9. Now Muhammad died is 632CE which means that the Muslim historians had no clue about the fact that Cyrus could not have received such letter because he was not in Egypt when the letter was sent and if indeed there was a Mariyya al-Qibtiyya then there is no way that she could have made it to Madina in time

10. And if indeed a letter was sent we are told that it was written in Arabic! But Arabic in 627CE and for 200 more years was a very defective language and I suspect that Cyrus would not have had anyone who can read Arabic because Arabic was not yet a language of literature and if Muhammad indeed sent such a letter it would have been in Syriac but this is not what the islamic tradition tells

11. If we turn to John of Nikiu who was a Coptic priest and who wrote a diary for the period between 640CE until 690CE which covers the Arab invasion of Egypt (and yes the extant book has serious flaws as a source) John of Nikiu is silent about al-Muqawqas aka Cyrus or a letter sent by a certain Muhammad

12. If we turn to the extant Greek sources and the Coptic sources they are silent about such letter and no one seem to tell us "oh those invading Arabs are the followers of Muhammad that sent a letter to Cyrus" and i do believe that the silence of the sources here is very important

13 So back to the Qur'an:the question becomes why would the ulama make up something that more likely than not never happened. Well to reply to such question is to understand the nature of Islamic historiography and that the ulama and the qassaseen or those that provided stories that were in great demand had to invent a story to explain Quranic allusions that do not make any sense and in the mean time amuse the listeners and no more and this is why we have to very different explanations to Q66

14. Now we are also told that we will find the letter placed in an ivory box and it is not at the Topkapi Museum in Turkey! But the truth is if this is true and not a forgery then it sould be the greatest discovery in the history of early islam and Hoyland in his survey of the extant islamic literary sources he does not include it because it is no more than forgery

15. And as usual the ulama had to offer some story to explain to us what really happened to Mariyya and we are told that she died in 636CE and that she had a son which would be the son of Muhammad and his name was Ibrahim and that little Ibrahim died in 636CE too! But what is most amazing is that the extant Arabic and Muslim literary sources after the Arab invasion of the Middle East were silent about the son of the great master and we are not to hear about either Ibrahim or his mother Mariyya for 200 more years! You can reach your own conclusions here

So as you can see this story of the letter to Cyrus is not real history as in "what really happened" but it is what Wansbrough called salvation history or pious fiction

And if we can dismiss it then we must dismiss the other letters as well

I hope I helped


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