Over the past three or four years, few Christian speakers have caused more confusion on the topic of Islam as the Catholic sociology professor Dr. Craig Considine. His popular books and videos have propelled his ideas into the mainstream discussion of Islam, but how reliable a source is Dr. Considine on Islam and on the person to whom he refers as ‘The Prophet’ Muhammad?
Dr. Considine’s most prominent claim is that ‘The Prophet’ Muhammad encouraged racial equality and was not just neutral, but anti-racist. His most often-cited source for the Qur’an as anti-racist is Surah 49:13, which states:
‘O you people, surely we created you from male and female, and we have made you into peoples and tribes so that you may know one another. Surely the most generous among you, before Allah, is the most pious among you. Surely Allah is knowing, aware.’
This verse hardly establishes Muhammad as a great defender of racial equality. But we can turn to Dr. Considine’s most famous video on the matter, the Emir-Stein Center’s ‘Who Is the First Anti-Racist?’. Let’s ignore for a second the fact that the Old and New Testaments teach against racism, making Muhammad far from the first anti-racist; in fact, Muhammad was no anti-racist at all. Muhammad was an Arab supremacist and a racist, specifically against black African men, contrary to Dr. Considine’s claims.
Considine first discusses the story of a black Muslim, Bilal ibn Rabah, who was freed by Muhammad’s decision after being tortured for his faith. There is no hint of anti-racism here. The torture incident had nothing to do with race, either. Considine then invokes a saying by Muhammad rebuking some odd insults from his followers, but this hardly tells us anything about Muhammad’s own views. Considine’s final example is Muhammad’s supposed last sermon, but this is a very strange place to go. The last khutba was reported in the Hadith books of Muslim, Muwatta Malik, Ibn Majah, Abu Dawud and Ahmed Ibn Hanbal, but disagreements over particular statements have led to narrative issues. While the speech does show Muhammad preaching about the non-superiority of any one people over another, he says this in specific respect to piety. The statements in the last sermon are not inconsistent with some worrying hadiths.
Muhammad, a white slave owner with black slaves, seemed to suggest multiple times that black skin was one of the worst possible features a human being could have. In Sahih al-Bukhari 7142, Muhammad says:
‘You should listen to and obey, your ruler even if he was an Ethiopian (black) slave whose head looks like a raisin’. In Sahih Muslim 3138, he says: ‘If a slave having some limb of his missing and having dark complexion is appointed to govern you according to the Book of Allah the Exalted. listen to him and obey him’.
When one considers these passages in light of his last sermon, it seems that Muhammad believes that black skin is a bad feature, but that even when Muslims are black, they are superior to other people because of their piety.
In Sahih Muslim 3901, black slaves are worth half of other slaves, as Muhammad buys a regular slave ‘for two black slaves’. Muhammad says Satan looks like a black man:
‘The apostle said, ‘Whoever wants to see Satan, let him take a look at Nabtal ibn al-Harith!’ He was a sturdy black man with long flowing hair, inflamed eyes, and dark ruddy cheeks’. (Ibn Ishaq 243)
In Ash-Shifa, the penalty for calling Muhammad black is death. Muhammad also has sex with and impregnates a black slave in Ibn Ishaq. ‘Provisions of the Afterlife’ names many black slaves, one of which, Safina, Muhammad named ‘ship’, as he was loaded with cargo. Muhammad also had black slaves called Anjasha (Sahih al-Bukhari 6161 – English reference) and Mid’am (Sunan An-Nasa’i 3858).
When I reached out to see if Dr. Considine would be interested in engaging in a discussion with me, he politely declined a formal debate or dialogue; despite my specification that I would discuss with him any issue involving Islam, and he still appears eager to discuss these topics extensively on his own platforms.