There is a new book about Muhammad that just has been published. What do you think about Juan Cole´s new project and about his comments on Reddit?
From Kha Andani´s Facebook page:
"“This book puts forward a reinterpretation of early Islam as a movement strongly inflected with values of peacemaking that was reacting against the slaughter of the decades-long war and attendant religious strife. From the Crusades to colonialism, conflicts between Christians and Muslims led to a concentration among writers of European heritage on war and Islam, leaving the dimension of peace and cooperation neglected.2 Both peace and war are present in the Qur’an, just as they are in the Bible, and both will be analyzed below, but the focus here is on peace.
This book studies the Qur’an in its historical context rather than trying to explain what Muslims believe about their scripture.3 The Qur’an insists on liberty of conscience and forbearance toward enemies, and it prohibits unprovoked, aggressive warfare. It promises salvation to all righteous monotheists and not just to followers of the prophet Muhammad. That many outsiders and a not inconsiderable number of adherents have associated it with none of these values, and indeed have often interpreted it as upholding the converse, demonstrates how badly it has been understood. The misapprehensions came about for many reasons, including the imperial ideologies of the later Christian Byzantine and Muslim Abbasid empires, difficulties in interpreting the text, and a failure to read it against contemporary Roman and Iranian texts, a procedure that allows us to compare and contrast its values and concerns with those of others living in that era.4
The Iranian invasion of Roman territory from 603 forward threatened the independence of western Arabia, where Muhammad was based. The Sasanian conquest of Jerusalem in 614 struck contemporaries as apocalyptic and provoked a mystical response from the Prophet. A close reading of the Qur’an shows that a profound distress at the carnage of the age led Muhammad to spend the first half of his prophetic career (610–622) imagining an alternative sort of society, one firmly grounded in practices of peace. The Qur’an repeatedly instructs Believers to “repel evil with good,” pardon their persecutors, and wish peace on those who harassed them. These verses have as their greater context the outbreak of struggles among Christians, Jews, Zoroastrians, and a remnant of pagans, who were partisans in the clash of empires raging around them. Muhammad in these years resembles much more the Jesus of the Sermon on the Mount than is usually admitted.
Scholars have increasingly also tied the second half of Muhammad’s career, 622–632, to the maneuverings of Rome and Iran, even suggesting that his move to Medina from his hometown of Mecca may have been connected to Roman diplomacy.5 I argue that Muslims in the time of the Prophet were explicitly allied with the Christian emperor Herakleios (r. 610–641) and indeed that Muhammad saw his defensive battles against truculent pagans in places such as Badr and Uhud in West Arabia as protecting Roman churches in Transjordan and Syria, to the north. It is likely these militant Arabian pagans had allied with the Iranian king of kings.
In short, Islam is, no less than Christianity, a Western religion that initially grew up in the Roman Empire. Moreover, Muhammad saw himself as an ally of the West. The Prophet in those years of pagan attacks did not abandon his option for peace but moved toward a doctrine of just war similar to that of Cicero and late-antique Christian thinkers. He repeatedly sued for peace with a bellicose Mecca, but when that failed he organized Medina for self-defense in the face of a determined pagan foe. The Qur’an insists that aggressive warfare is wrong and that if the enemy seeks an armistice, Muslims are bound to accept the entreaty. This disallowing of aggressive war and search for a resolution even in the midst of violent conflict justifies the title “prophet of peace,” even if Muhammad was occasionally forced into a defensive campaign. The Qur’an contains a doctrine of just war but not of holy war and does not use the word jihad with that latter connotation. It views war as an unfortunate necessity when innocents, and the freedom of conscience, are threatened. It strictly forbids vigilantism and equates premeditated killing of noncombatants with genocide, paraphrasing in this regard Jewish commentaries on the Bible in the Jerusalem Talmud.6
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!”?7
Even today, many scholars of early Islam seem unduly deferential to later medieval interpreters. Others radically reject all information in those sources, treating Muslim histories differently from Byzantine or Carolingian chronicles, once again condemning non-Europeans to being a people without a history. The Qur’an tells us about that history if we will listen to it, and it tells us what is plausible in the later biographies of the Prophet."https://www.hachettebookgroup.com/titles/juan-cole/muhammad/9781568587837/?fbclid=IwAR2meUSxUOYg5NeK1OtUPuPW1rAkUuHE3o8gJClX1tCBlnNa43HpV9M2rDE