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"The detestable doctrine of the beast, this is, Mohammed " - John of Nikiu , a 7th century Coptic author

Reader comment on item: Uncovering Early Islam
in response to reader comment: Can the extant non islamic sources tell us about what really happened? the answer is no

Submitted by Ianus (Poland), Jun 17, 2012 at 15:59

Hi, dhimmi no more!

Let me make a short comment on one point you made. It concerns denying early mentions of Mahomet and Islam.

"What he is saying is that Sebeous is interesting but he is just as unreliable as the Islamic sources themselves to tell us about what really happened"

Sebeos is a 7th century fairly reliable source on the great Byzantine-Persian war and the reign of Heraclius and the affairs of his homeland Armenia at that time and before. He has got many vivid and realistic details. So I wonder why he should have distorted what he knew or heard about Mahomet and the movement he initiated that thoroughly ravaged and finally imposed its tyrannical yoke on Armenia around 661? Every Armenian must have been very interested in knowing exactly who the enemy of their fatherland was, I presume. So i would not reject his testimony so light-heartedly.

But leaving this early eyewitness aside, there is another 7th century author whose important work contains a fragment that explicitly speaks both of the new doctrine and its inventor. John of Nikiu was a late 7th century Coptic bishop of Nikiu or Pashati in the Nile Delta. In 696 he was appointed general administrator of the monasteries of Upper Egypt. His "Chronicle" which is a fundamental source on the history of the Arab conquest of Egypt , was written originally in Greek with possible Coptic passages inserted. It has had as sad and tortuous fate as the author's own country. The original was lost but it survived in an Arabic translation which was then further translated into Ethiopian Ge'ez and in this form it has survived until now with large and important portions of its nevertheless lost.

John of Nikiu constantly calls the invaders under Amr Moslems beside calling them with the standard term "Ishmaelites". But what is more important for me he explicitly mentions both Mahomet and Islam. In Chapter CXXI of the "Chronicle" we read :

" 10. And now many of the Egyptians who had been false Christians denied the holy orthodox faith and lifegiving baptism, and embraced the religion of the Moslem, the enemies of God, and accepted the detestable doctrine of the beast, this is, Mohammed, and they erred together with those idolaters, and took arms in their hands and fought against the Christians. 11. And one of them, named John, the Chalcedonian of the Convent of Sinai, embraced the faith of Islam, and quitting his monk's habit he took up the sword, and persecuted the Christians who were faithful to our Lord Jesus Christ."

Well, it seems that next to Sebeos another almost contemporary author has heard of Mahomet and calls his doctrine "Islam" and its followers "Moslems". So maybe not all historical tradition of early Islam was born only 300 years after hijra after all in the heads of pious court scholars in Baghdad? Maybe there is a little grain of truth in it? What do you think of that, my friend?


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